Widely regarded as one of the top Brazilian prospects in the featherweight division since 2016, the always-confident Jonas Bilharinho was one of the highlights from Week 10 of Dana White’s Contender Series, as he knocked out Canaan Kawaihae with a wheel kick in the third round of their Nov. 2 pairing. Nevertheless, Ultimate Fighting Championship President Dana White chose not to sign him.
When he arrived in Brazil a few days later, the Team Nogueira representative did not hide his disappointment with the decision. However, in a video interview with Super Lutas, he managed to find a silver lining in the experience.
“I was astonished. I lost my balance. It was as if I had been tripped and never hit the ground,” Bilharinho said. “I was down for a while, but once I got down, I stood up. I was lost but not disappointed. Then I connected one dot to another and saw people come together to support me on social media, and it was just amazing. It motivated me to train harder. The time for my contract will come, either because Dana changed his mind or because I run over my next opponent. At that point, my signing will kind of be redemption.”
Bilharinho asked his supporters not to criticize White.
“Some people are having emotional reactions against Dana and telling me to look for other organizations,” he said. “Please don’t be aggressive with Dana. He’s a business genius. The sport reached this point because of his vision. I’m not going to other organizations. I’ll either fight for the Legacy Fighting Alliance belt or I’ll fight again on the Contender Series, but my focus is 100% on the UFC. There are no other options.”
Bilharinho made his professional MMA debut in 2011, when his clash with Carlos Peixoto ended in a draw. He then rattled off seven straight victories before suffering his only career setback in a second-round technical knockout loss to Valdines Silva on April 30, 2016. His record currently sits at 9-1-1. In addition to Bilharinho’s competitive exploits, he was hired as a sparring partner for both Jose Aldo and Eddie Alvarez ahead of their UFC title bouts against Conor McGregor.
“Both were great experiences,” he said. “It was good to see that champions are mortals. I have all the respect in the world for Alvarez and Aldo, but honestly, from what I could see in our sparring sessions, I had the ability to beat both of them. To see that their level is reachable and surmountable was really important to me.”