Wilson Reis prefers to fight at 135 pounds. | Photo: Dave Mandel
Some things are not lost in translation. Like many other fighters, bantamweight Wilson Reis was drawn to MMA through an icon of traditional martial arts: Jean Claude Van Damme. As a child in Sao Paulo, Brazil, the Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt tried to emulate his fighting idol at an early age.
“I began training when I was 12 years old. My big inspiration was fighting movies. I was a big fan of Van Damme,” Reis told Sherdog.com. “I had two brothers and we would beat the s--- out of each other after watching the movies. I started thinking I wanted to fight. When I was 13, I started training kickboxing. It was [at] a big training center where all the kids from the neighborhood went. Then I fought judo.”
Reis showed a quick aptitude for jiu-jitsu and rose through the ranks in Brazil. Soon after, he moved to America and began training in no-gi, which served as his entrance into MMA.
“I got my black belt in 2004 and won the world jiu-jitsu tournament,” he said. “When I moved here, I started doing more no-gi [training]. There are not as many black belts here. Then I started doing striking, and I thought, ‘Man, that could be me, too.’”
A natural bantamweight, Reis has been competing at featherweight for much of his career. That will soon change. He will face Eduardo Dantas in the first round of the Bellator Fighting Championships Season 5 bantamweight tournament at Bellator 51 on Saturday in Canton, Ohio. Originally an alternate, Reis replaced Joe Soto after he lost to Eddie Yagin under the Tachi Palace Fights banner in August.
“Because they didn’t have my weight class [before], I moved up,” Reis said. “I never miss weight. I’m always underweight.”
Reis hopes to seize the day and, with it, the chance to score another win over reigning Bellator bantamweight champion Zach Makovsky. First, he must deal with Dantas, a promising Nova Uniao prospect, and move through the eight-man tournament. Reis submitted Makovsky in 2008 while fighting for EliteXC in his third professional MMA bout.
“It was my third MMA fight, I submitted him with a head-and-arm choke,” Reis said. “After the fight, we became very good friends. I look up to him and I’m sure he looks up to me, as well, but I gotta win the tournament first. He deserves to be where he is right now.”