Fernando Reyes is one of the top prospects to keep an eye on out of American Top Team in coming years, and he’s positioned himself as such by taking a patient approach.
Reyes, a 23-year-old who was born in New York but grew up in the Dominican Republic, has been training full time out of the Florida-based gym since 2017. It’s been roughly four years since he first got on the mats at ATT, however, he’s still yet to have a professional fight.
That’s because Reyes wanted to do things the right way, he said. He’s not someone who has been inherently linked to fighting, nor was he raised in the game from an early age. Reyes stumbled into the sport though other interests, but once he did, there was no looking back.
“Growing up I was not a fan of the sport,” Reyes told MMA Junkie. “I barely watched fighting, I was never into fighting and it’s kind of weird now that I’m actually training to be a fighter. I was never big into violence, but I was a fan of WWE and made the move to UFC once Brock Lesnar made the jump and started fighting.”
Reyes’ introduction to combat sports came in high school. He joined the wrestling team, but said he was “horrible” in the beginning and called his first year of competition a “nightmare.” But like anyone who thrives in athletics, Reyes didn’t give up and began to pick up up techniques. Not long after, his wrestling was complemented with jiu-jitsu training, then eventually boxing.
“I was a skinny kid so first year of wrestling was rough on me,” Reyes said. “I just got my ass whooped every day. After that I started lifting with my brother and he got me to the gym and I just kept getting better and better, then I just fell in love with it and working hard and just the sport of MMA.”
Once Reyes became aware late in his teenage years that being an MMA fighter was going to be his future, he knew training with an elite team was essential to his longterm goals. He said he was in Coconut Creek, Fla., for spring break visiting his girlfriend’s grandmother, who just happened to live 10 minutes from ATT.
The coincidence convinced Reyes that ATT is where he needed to be, so he relocated and put trust in the coaching staff to mold his talents and bring him to the next level.
“When I first made the move to Florida I just trained for two years and didn’t have any fights or anything,” Reyes said. “Once I started having my amateur career it started going great. All my fights except one I’ve won in the first round and just little by little, my coaches feel I’m ready to make that jump to professional. I’m still 23. I’m young. No need to rush anything.”
The temptation to go pro is getting increasingly difficult for Reyes to resist, he said. He’s coming off a second-round submission win at XFN 31 on Dec. 19, which pushed him to 5-0 as an amateur with belts in the welterweight and middleweight divisions.
An initial plan called for the 6-foot-2 Reyes to reach 7-0 or 8-0 before shedding the amateur label, but he said he’s progressed faster than expected, and “anyone they give me in amateurs, I’ll run through them.” More experience never hurts, but it’s a fine line when there’s no compensation at stake.
“I feel ready mentally, physically,” Reyes said. “This last camp was my first time actually training with the pro team for a fight. That helped even more with my confidence training with the best guy at the best gym. I feel like it’s time to get something out of this and go professional and get paid.”
Reyes said he’s 90 percent certain his next fight will be his pro debut. He may try to fit in an amateur boxing or kickboxing fight to help let his striking catch up even more with his grappling ability, which he said is “way up there.”
Ultimately, though, Reyes is going to make a collective decision with his coaches and management. He knows the future is bright no matter what, but thinks it’s time for the fights to count for real.
“I want to debut with Titan FC because they’re a local Florida show and they have some pretty good fighters,” Reyes said. “I hopefully can make a run there and to that title then hopefully make a run to the UFC. That’s my plan. It’s time to get paid.”