The untimely death of basketball superstar Kobe Bryant in a helicopter crash at the age of 41 continues to cause reverberations through the sports world, and if Dominick Reyes has his way, he’ll include a tribute to Bryant during his light heavyweight title shot against Jon Jones at UFC 247 on Feb. 8, 2020.
“I mean, I’d like to wear his jersey throughout the week,” Reyes told the press during a media event in Las Vegas. “But I don’t know if Reebok would be very excited about that. We’ll see. Definitely win this belt, he’s definitely in my heart. Definitely in my mind. ”
That is indeed a big ask from Reyes. Reebok holds exclusive UFC uniform rights, which means fighters are forced to wear Reebok gear through fight week up to fight night. They haven’t exactly been flexible on much — fighters have often had to fight the company to even carry certain flags out with them to the cage. Bryce Mitchell asked Reebok for a pretty simple modification back in April 2019: camo fight shorts. He’s still waiting. So will the outfitter let Reyes wear some sort of tribute to Kobe (a Nike athlete) into the cage?
But it’s worth an ask, and with emotions high and Bryant’s passing causing such a big impact, there’s always a chance.
UFC official tells me they’re “vetting” Dominick Reyes’ request to wear Kobe Bryant jersey on UFC 247 fight week. https://t.co/ME9QRdFkUk— Steven Marrocco (@MMAFightingSM) January 30, 2020
Reyes explained to the assembled press just what Kobe meant to him and the impact his death had.
“I’ve never looked up to any other athlete but Kobe Bryant,” he said. “Kobe’s mentality of ‘nobody is gonna believe in you but you’ ... I’ve used that throughout my life. I made it to my university. I’m here on that philosophy. Nobody is gonna believe in you but you. Nobody is gonna work for you. Work when the lights are off, work when nobody is looking. That’s what matters. That’s what makes you a champion. Winning is everything. Oh, man. All of that is a huge part of why I’m here today.”
“I pretty much stayed in bed most of the day,” he said regarding the Sunday the tragic news broke. “I didn’t really get up much. I had to eat. I called my friends. Called my family. Talked to people about it. I needed to talk to someone about it. It was really like almost losing a family member. I don’t know, man. It sucks. It f**king sucks.”
Bryant and his 13 year old daughter, Gianna, were amongst the nine people who died in the helicopter crash. Officials currently blame foggy conditions as the cause of the accident, with the pilot requesting aid navigating from air traffic controllers shortly before running into a hillside.
Reyes goes into his title challenge against Jon Jones a perfect 12-0, while “Bones” is looking to win his 26th fight and successfully defend the 205-pound title for the eleventh time.