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Jonas Bilharinho explains why Dana White’s Contender Series contract snub was ‘beautiful’

Jonas Bilharinho knocked out Canaan Kawaihae at Dana White's Contender Series.
Zuffa LLC

Jonas Bilharinho has been seen as a hot prospect in MMA for years, but decided to leave the sport in 2016 after suffering a shocking upset defeat in Brazil. Back to the cages in 2019 with a vicious flying knee knockout, it felt a matter of time for Bilharinho to be signed by a major promotion.

Set to compete at Dana White’s Contender Series’ recent show in Las Vegas on Nov. 2, the talented featherweight, once hired by Jose Aldo to emulate Conor McGregor in camp, displayed his striking skills against Canaan Kawaihae with a devastating spinning hook-kick knockout, the first of its kind in the history of DWCS. But it still wasn’t enough to convince White.

Bilharinho took his time and patiently waited for the right moment to finish Kawaihae with a minute left in the third round, and White wasn’t a fan of the first 14 minutes of the contest.

Back to Brazil empty-handed, Bilharinho celebrates not being signed by the UFC.

“The feedback has been even bigger because the contract didn’t come,” Bilharinho said in an interview with MMA Fighting. “I’m seeing everybody united as if I’ve become some sort of a cause, you know what I mean? When Dana White gives in, for regretting [his decision] and changing his mind or because I ran thought my next opponent — and one of the two will happen — people will get together and celebrate.

“If he had signed me already I’d be just another one that had a cool knockout and was signed, ‘yay,’ but my name would cool off in a moment. My name will stay hot because of what happened. That, to me, is Father providing me of a path that no one understands, but is definitely better.”

Bilharinho, who is 9-1-1 in the sport with eight stoppage wins, is taking the high road in all this. He admits, however, to feeling “astonished” hearing White’s comments but is “used to have my legs swept out from under me.”

“I landed on my feet, already looking on the bright side of this situation,” Bilharinho said. “And I got the answer, brother. It’s pretty clear to me. I’m happy and motivated, and I know my time will come.”

Bilharinho is a free agent and says “many” promotions have reached out already, but his plan A is to sign with the UFC. If he has to get another win to convince White to give him a contract, he believes he’d compete in the LFA. The featherweight talent doesn’t want to be tied in a contract that prevents him from joining the UFC.

“I won’t even spend a drop of my energy with that,” he said of offers from other promotions. “The UFC is my focus and it’s a straight line to the UFC.”

Dana White called Bilharinho’s kick a “spectacular finish” but still chose not to sign him, and the Brazilian holds no grudges.

“He had to criticize something,” Bilharinho said. “What’s the other option? Dana White going there and saying, ‘Look, I won’t sign this kid because I’m a loser because the truth is he deserved it?’ Of course he won’t say that, of course he was going to justify and try to point at things that made him think negatively about me, but I honestly think Dana was not on a good day. I looked at him and he didn’t look well, he didn’t look so relaxed, and I don’t criticize him for that.

“I don’t say like he owed me anything. ‘Oh, you should have been cool there and respected my work.’ Hell no. I’m the one that has to respect his work, man. Being UFC president must be crazy pressure, tough as hell. People complain about cutting weight and whatnot and we have no idea what it is to be on Dana White’s shoes, brother. If he was having a bad day and it’s all because of that, it’s all good, brother. Let him breathe, drink his water and get better, because I know he has no problem walking back his decisions.

“I know he sees that as the attitude of a great man. He once said women would never fight in the UFC. One day a reporter tried to surprise him saying, what about now Dana, you said there would never be women in the UFC and there’s Ronda [Rousey], and he said, ‘Yeah, I’ve changed my mind. So what? Great men do. Next question.’ So I know that if Dana White changes his mind and wants to call me tomorrow, he’ll say, ‘I’ve changed my mind and this kid will make his UFC debut.’ I have no problem with that.

“People are overreacting so emotionally to this, and I see that as love. I know it’s their way of showing affection to me and I’m grateful for that. People are fighting for me in a way I’ve never expected to see and it’s super cool. It’s beautiful, and I wouldn’t choose any other way. If I could go back in time and make Dana White sign me right on the spot I wouldn’t do it, and I say that with an open heart, because everything that’s happening right now is so beautiful. I know it’s for the best. It will be historic because of how it’s happening.”

Bilharinho believes him being under contract with the UFC before the end of the year is not a matter of “if” but “how,” and it’s all part of his destiny.

How so? It’s all tied to his new nickname, “Joshua.”

“I’ll like to ask people to please, please stop calling me ‘Shiva,’” Bilharinho said. “I’ve only used that for one fight. My nickname today is Joshua and there’s a beautiful story behind it. This is the first time I’m telling this story. There’s a spiritual woman I know, a good friend of mine, who calls me Josué [Joshua in Portuguese] since the day we met. She simply calls me Josué because she says she sees the energy of Josué in me. She has the habit of giving people biblical names as if she’s trying to point at their egregore.

“Something happened when I was talking to Father — I don’t know how people deal with this but I believe you can talk to God and hear back from Him — and He told me the nicknames I had were self-given and that didn’t please him, so I stopped using both ‘Speed’ and ‘Shiva.’ I planned on going on as just Jonas Bilharinho but asked him, ‘Father, if you want me to use a nickname, if there’s a nickname that pleases you, let it come to my knowledge.’

“And right after I asked that, like a day later, this friend of mine, Deise, came to me and said, ‘Josué, Father asked me to come tell you something. Father asked me to tell you that Josué is a biblical person, a warrior that helped people cross the desert and get to promised land.’ I already knew that, and I knew those three coincidences. He’s a warrior and I’m a fighter; crossing the deserves was like my retirement time, reinventing myself; and the promised land was the UFC. I saw that connection.

“But that day, when I asked Father for a nickname and Deise came, she said ‘Jonas, you’re Josué and you’ll help people cross the desert and get to the promised land and conquer Canaan. I was like, ‘Wait a minute, Deise, you’ve never mentioned that Canaan part.’ She said Canaan was the promised land. I asked her, ‘Deise, do you know the name of my next opponents?’ I don’t know if you remember this, Guilherme, but my the name of my opponent was Canaan.”