Jonas Bilharinho added another belt to his undefeated record earlier this month, and he intends to continue collecting titles until he gets a call from the Ultimate Fighting Championship or Rizin Fighting Federation.
The 7-0-1 prospect, a former Jungle Fight bantamweight and featherweight champion, stopped Amaury Junior to claim the inaugural 1º Round Combat featherweight title on Dec. 6. Fighting for the first time since undergoing surgery on both ankles, Bilharinho broke Junior’s rib in the opening round, dominating the bout until his opponent quit between the third and fourth round.
"I expected a tough fight," Bilharinho told MMAFighting.com. "I didn’t have much time to prepare so I focused on my cardio so I would be able to fight a long fight. However, I landed a good kick in the first round and ended up breaking his rib. That advantage, together with my good cardio, helped me dominate the rest of the fight. He’s a fantastic fighter, he was able to fight two and a half rounds with a broken rib, but I felt the fight was under my control every second after that."
After conquering his third belt in only eight MMA fights, Bilharinho believes he has done enough to earn a chance in the big leagues.
"I would be honored to fight in the UFC or at Rizin," he said. "I’m waiting for their call. Whoever offers me a deal, I’m in."
In July of 2014, after winning his first title at Jungle Fight, Bilharinho revealed he was offered a contract by Bellator.
"Man, I got so many offers I can’t remember everything, but the biggest promotion to offer me a deal was Bellator," he said. "It was one of the first ones. They made me a good offer, especially if you consider I was so young, but I declined because I thought that would keep me away from the UFC, where I really wanted to be. I decided to stay in Brazil and collect belts while I wait for the UFC, but now Rizin is also a possibility.
"Besides those two, I would only leave Brazil for an international promotion that offers me ridiculous money," he continued. "I’m not talking about millions, of course, but a good paycheck. That would make me consider leaving Brazil for a promotion that isn’t the UFC or Rizin."
So if money could change his mind, can the Reebok deal convince him to sign with Bellator instead of the UFC?
"No. I’m not interested," he said. "I don’t know. It’s like my body knows I have to go to one of these two events. My guts say the UFC is where I have to be, but I’m a fan of the sport so I also consider going to Rizin. But if I could choose between those two, I’d go to the UFC."
Bilharinho was closer to entering the UFC in the past, trying out for a couple editions of The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil, but he wasn’t selected by the promotion to enter the reality show.
"I wasn’t even the Jungle Fight champion when I tried out the first time, and I had just won my first Jungle Fight belt the second time," he said. "They didn't let me go through after the jiu-jitsu practice both times. At the end of the day, I’m proud of the things I did after that. I made history winning two Jungle Fight titles, so I’m happy with the way things went."
Being the Jungle Fight champion in two divisions could help Bilharinho enter the UFC, considering the long list of champions from that promotion to eventually sign with the UFC. However, Bilharinho has a different opinion about what it means to defend a title in the local circuit.
"I don’t think defending the Jungle Fight title would add a lot to my career," he said. "‘Oh, he’s the Jungle Fight champion and has defended his belt five times’. Nobody says that. I won the title, and now I want more belts. I want to add more accomplishments to my resume instead of keep defending titles. I want more belts."
Wherever he goes, one thing is for sure: the former Jungle Fight two-division champion will never fight at bantamweight again.
"I can’t make 135 anymore," Bilharinho said. "I like to be happy, and I’m not happy making 135 pounds. That’s prejudicial to my health and mind. I don’t fight the same way at 135, and I get hurt more often. It’s not worth it anymore, so I don’t consider fighting at 135 anymore."