5 fighters who could make UFC or Bellator with July wins

Every champ in Mixed Martial Arts history began someplace.

For those who make it to the greatest phase, the journey starts long prior to they strap on UFC or Bellator gloves. Modern-era fighters advance through the local ranks with hopes of achieving the greatest honors. Numerous will attempt, couple of will be successful.

This month, 5 fighters on the edge of attaining significant promo prestige go back to the cage for what might be their stepping stone battle. There are lots of fighters near making the dive in the coming weeks, however these 5 are especially excellent.

This month:

  • A Dana White’s Competitor Series winner who didn’t make an agreement in 2018 completes in his very first battle considering that his “lights out” battle.

  • With LFA flyweight champ Victor Altamirano set to contend on DWCS, this Michigan-based, Thailand-trained fighter hopes an interim belt will move him to the UFC.

  • After travel concerns avoided an LFA title battle in February, among Brazil’s leading flyweights invites the promo to his house nation with open arms.

  • For many years among the very best fighters in the Texas local circuit, a rising light-weight want to show his weight concerns are under control – which he’s all set for the major leagues.

  • After being passed over on DWCS, an increasing Canadian light-weight is still starving for a surface – and his UFC agreement.

Chibwikem Onyenegecha

Record: 7-0 Age: 27 Weight class: Middleweight Height: 6’3″ Birthplace: Richmond, Calif. Next Fight: July 2 vs. Renato Valente (7-4) at LFA 110 in Shawnee, Okla. (UFC Fight Pass) Background: It was never in the plans for Chibwikem Onyenegecha to become a martial artist, but somehow MMA found him. At a continuation school, Onyenegecha found a “leave the streets” outreach program that he signed up with with a friend “ and the rest was history. Before he fought for money, Onyenegecha fell in love with MMA through watching reruns of “UFC Undisputed” on television. After he turned pro, Onyenegecha kept winning – and has still yet to lose as it stands. He won on Dana White’s Contender Series in 2018 – in a fight known for its whacky moment of the lights in the arena going out. Though he won, Onyenegecha didn’t get a contract offer. Nearly three years later, he’s set to return to competition after taking some time to work on his jiu-jitsu and becoming a father. The Skinny: Onyenegecha has lengthy, speed, and athleticism. He has sharp technique and is still pretty young despite his long layoff. If he continues to build and improve his ground game, he’ll be a tough outing for anyone at 185 pounds. Like many other DWCS winners who don’t earn contracts on fight night, Onyenegecha is likely already on the UFC’s radar for a short-notice opportunity. A lot rides on his LFA 110 fight, however, as perhaps he can push the promotion in a direction to sign him sooner rather than later. In his own words: “I’m kind of Orthodox. I bring a different timing and tempo to the game. I’m pretty explosive. … I should be able to hold my own with a lot of people in the UFC right now, at least I think. We’ll see Friday and we’ll work from there. … No doubt, (I should get the UFC call-up after this. If not that hopefully, I get a call for the title either-or.”

Charles Johnson

Image via LFA

Record: 8-2 Age: 30 Weight class: Flyweight Height: 5’9″ Birthplace: St. Louis Next Fight: July 2 vs. Yuma Horiuchi (8-3) at LFA 110 in Shawnee, Okla. – for interim flyweight title (UFC Fight Pass) Background: Charles Johnson has been around the world and he’s crafted his MMA skills along his journey. Rooted in wrestling, Johnson began his combat sports journey in the eighth grade. Before long, he was a high school standout. In college, however, he went a different route. He was a Division I All-American cross-country and track runner at the University of Arkansas Pine Bluff. When he came back home, a friend and fellow wrestler, Kenny Porter, needed a training partner for an upcoming fight. Before long, Johnson was training for a fight of his own. Since then, Johnson has compiled a solid record. He trained in Thailand and the famous Tiger Muay Thai alongside current UFC bantamweight champion Petr Yan. When the pandemic hit, Johnson returned home where he trains alongside UFC welterweight Khaos Williams. The Skinny: The UFC can always use flyweights and while Johnson hasn’t been the most active in the past couple of years, he’s been crafting his skills to prove he’s ready for the big show. An interim title will be huge for Johnson, who has done an excellent job of amassing as much mixed martial arts knowledge as possible. His personality is very likable, too, which goes a long way in today’s age of popularity importance. But don’t get it twisted, his skills are there, too. If you train with Petr Yan on a day-in, day-out basis, you have to be pretty damn good. In his own words: I fight with a lot of rhythm and I talk a lot. I’ve started talking a lot while I’m in there. It’s not really talking sh*t. I just feel like it’s a fight, man. This is a fight. And people forget that. They get in there and they forget there is a fight. So I get in there and I’m really in the moment now and I’m really in the fight and I’m talking to the person I’m with and I’m really enjoying this now. I feel like people see that and they can relate to that. I’m a very relatable person, man. I’ve been through a lot of things. A lot of fighters have a lot of adversities that they fight through. “This is a humble game, yes, but when you’re out there, you don’t have any choice. Either you’re going to be on a platter or you are going to eat. For me, I think what people can attest to the most is just, I’m not a perfect fighter by any means. I do a lot of things great. I’m very Diaz-esque. You see a lot of ways he can lose, but he wins. “When I say that I’m different, I’m 5’9″ fighting at flyweight. I’m fast. I have cardio. I have Jiu-jitsu, wrestling, boxing, muay thai. I can take the fight wherever it needs to go. Also, you’re not going to beak me mentally. When I say that I’m different, I really believe have everything that it takes to win when I hit the UFC on three flights away from a title. I know that. I’m ready for that now.”

Carlos Mota

Carlos Mota

Carlos Mota

Image via LFA

Record: 5-0 Age: 26 Weight class: Flyweight Height: 5’5″ Birthplace: Para, Brazil Next Fight: July 16 vs. Rodrigo Roldan (4-3) at LFA 111 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (UFC Fight Pass) Background: Growing up in the streets of Brazil, [autotag]Carlos Mota[/autotag] wasn’t given a choice. He needed to learn how to fight in order to stay safe. At age 18, he met his coach Francisco Bueno and the rest is history. Bueno crafted Mota into the martial artist he is today, serving as a mentor and father figure for the Brazilian fighter. Seven years later, “Tizil” will contend for the LFA flyweight title. The Skinny: Mota is a little, compact ball of energy and power. His ending up capabilities, endurance, and surfaces would bring a great deal of enjoyable to the UFC’s flyweight department. While Mota definitely has a great deal of flare and skill, acquiring experience will be essential for him as he progresses. Battling for an LFA title will definitely do simply that. His abilities are advanced well past that of a typical 5-0 fighter. So if Mota gets his visa found out, maybe a title battle might be next – or he might participate in the UFC due to the fact that it’s not likely there will be numerous other difficulties waiting on him outside it. In his own words: “I’m here fully renewed. I’m a new version. Right now, I’m the best version of myself. I feel like I’m at the top of my game at this moment. I’ve been doing a lot of training in breathing, the nervous system, and consciousness – all the background that people don’t realize a fighter has to have is what I’m doing right now.” “… The public can see five fights (on my record), but every day has been an incredible fight for me since I was 18 years old. I’ve been training a lot, so my main thing is consciousness – being present. I’m doing things differently in my background. My emotional body is ready. I’ve been through a lot of things. I’ve been through a fight since I was born so I’m 100 percent ready.” “… I know my career in the UFC is going to be a statement. I’m going to be the difference in the flyweight division in the UFC. … We’ll see what God has in store for me.”

Levi Mowles

Record: 14-4 Age: 26 Weight class: Bantamweight Height: 5’8″ Birthplace: Venus, Texas Next Fight: July 25 vs. Teruto Ishihara (10-8-2) at Fury FC 48 in Houston (UFC Fight Pass) Background: It was a natural progression that Levi Mowles went down the MMA path considering the battles he engaged in with his younger brother while growing up. The boys were quickly introduced to jiu-jitsu by their parents, and they haven’t looked back since. Training out of Fitness Fight Factory, Levi Mowles has competed against some of Texas’ top competition since his pro debut in 2014. The Skinny: If you’ve watched an LFA or other high-level regional event in Texas, there’s a good chance you’ve seen Mowles battle. Despite only being 25, Mowles seems like he’s been around forever. Since Day 1, he’s fought the who’s who of Lone Star State talent. He’s competed against the likes of Miles Johns, Raufeon Stots, Damon Jackson, and Tony Kelley. He’s beaten current UFC fighters Jimmy Flick and Adrian Yanez. Mowles is exciting and a threat no matter where the fight ends up. In recent years, he’s erased any doubt about his consistency, winning eight of nine fights entering Fury FC 48. Issues on the scales have been seemingly the only thing holding him back, but he’s confident he can fix them – and then get a UFC contract. In his own words: “I don’t think anyone in the regional circuit is really in my way at this point. It’s just me. Even most of the guys in the UFC at the lower level. If I was to sign with the UFC today, I think I’m knocking on the door, the top 15. It’s just a matter of me getting in there. I’ve rolled with a couple of guys in the past and I trained with multiple guys that are in the U.S. now, like Chris Gutierrez – just a bunch of other Texas guys that came up and maybe they moved away but had trained with me prior. I do really well against those guys. I know where my stats and everything match up in that regard, and it’s comforting knowing that, like I said, if I do get that call, it’s like I’m going to be busting into the scene making a lot of noise.” “… I take pride of myself knowing that I don’t take easy fights. I kind of always do that, but knowing that past opponents got the call or they have been recognized on a show like the UFC or just around the community in general. Like if someone is giving them recognition, I knew by going into that fight already it wasn’t going to be something that was just a cakewalk at all. All my fights have been pretty, ‘Put your head down, get the grind, and get the win.’ But I take a lot of pride in knowing that. It is an anomaly in the fact that I’m not signed yet, but it is comforting knowing that those guys are also on that level because it just proves and validates me more.”

Anthony Romero

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – AUGUST 25: (R-L) Anthony Romero kicks Mike Breeden in a lightweight bout during week four of Dana White’s Contender Series season four at UFC APEX on August 25, 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/DWCS LLC/Zuffa LLC)

Record: 9-0 Age: 24 Weight class: Lightweight Height: 5’11” Birthplace: Canada Next Fight: July 25 vs. TBA at Fury FC 48 in Houston (UFC Fight Pass) Background: For those who follow the regional scene, [autotag]Anthony Romero[/autotag] was highlighted on prospect lists everywhere – he just needed the experience. After a stellar 8-1 amateur career, Romero turned pro in 2017. In 2019, Romero concluded an impressive stint in KOTC. In 2020, he won the Ohio Combat League lightweight title and advanced to 6-0. The victory earned him a spot on Dana White’s Contender Series, Season 4 in August. Despite a dominant unanimous decision over Mike Breeden, Romero was passed over by UFC president Dana White when it came time to hand out UFC contracts – a controversial decision in the eyes of many. Romero has gone 1-0 for LFA since. The Skinny: Romero was a talented, exciting, young, smart, high-potential-ceiling fighter – which makes it all the more mind-boggling that he was passed over by White. Nicknamed “The Genius,” Romero is a smart fighter. He’s gained the proper experience on the regional scene to make it to the big show and holds an undefeated record. His last LFA fight was a close one, but Romero is confident that whoever he fights for Fury FC will walk away on the losing end of a finish. In his own words: “I’m not going I don’t like to get too excited for things due to the fact that they’ve had it numerous times before where you get excited and then it doesn’t happen or come to fruition. I’m just taking it fight by fight. I’m not the boss or the one who calls the shots. I just control what I can to get the knockout or even if it’s a decision. I feel like a lot of people, they really put decisions down. Just look at one of the best in the world, Khabib Nurmagomedov. He had a lot of decisions that were just dominant decisions. He’s like one of the most favorite fighters in the world. I feel like a lot of people put it down. But I’m obviously trying to get the finish. Less damage is always, always on the body. It can give you a better career. So either way, I’m happy it’s going to be a dominant fighter all around.” “I see some of the guys that have been getting in the UFC on short-notice and stuff. Some of them, I’m like, ‘OK, congratulations.’ I’ve seen them in the regional circuit. Then, other people, I’m this kind of iffy for me. I don’t know if they can really last. Some of them do and some of them don’t. But, for me, I’m like, ‘What do I have to do?’ Like I know I need to get to finish and stuff. I don’t know. After the Contender Series, I felt like I was pretty entertaining. I had that output and that calm and everything. I feel like I can be entertaining. I just need that platform for me to showcase how I can talk and how I can fight. My management is trying Fury because they’re on Battle Pass and will get exposure. I just need to keep working and things will come together.”

Fighters worth watching who didn’t crack the list, yet are on the verge of something big:

  • [autotag]Yuma Horiuchi[/autotag] (8-2) – July 2 vs. Charles Johnson (8-2) at LFA 110 in Shawnee, Okla. (UFC Battle Pass)

  • [autotag]Brandon Jenkins[/autotag] (14-7) – July 9 vs. TBA at iKon Fighting Federation 8 in Las Vegas

  • [autotag]Solomon Renfro[/autotag] (7-1) – July 3 vs. Lee Henry Lilly (7-4) at CFFC 98 in Philadelphia (UFC Battle Pass)

  • [autotag]Yohan Lainesse[/autotag] (6-0) – July 3 vs. Evan Cutts (12-4) at CFFC 98 in Philadelphia (UFC Battle Pass)

  • [autotag]Evan Cutts[/autotag] (12-4) – July 3 vs. Yohan Lainesse (6-0) at CFFC 98 in Philadelphia (UFC Battle Pass)

  • [autotag]Rob Wilkinson[/autotag] (13-2) – July 9 vs. Sam Kei (8-5) at Hex Battle Series 22 in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

  • [autotag]Rangel de Sa[/autotag] (10-1) – July 16 vs. Ismael Bonfim (14-3) at LFA 111 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (UFC Battle Pass)

  • [autotag]Ismael Bonfim[/autotag] (14-3) – July 16 vs. Rangel de Sa (10-1) at LFA 111 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (UFC Battle Pass)

  • [autotag]Ary Farias[/autotag] (10-2) – July 16 vs. Marcos Breno (13-2) at LFA 111 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (UFC Combat Pass)

  • [autotag]Carlos Leal[/autotag] (12-3) – July 18 vs. Diego Dias (13-3) at LFA 112 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (UFC Battle Pass)

  • [autotag]Diego Dias[/autotag] (13-3) – July 18 vs. Carlos Leal (12-3) at LFA 112 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (UFC Battle Pass)

  • [autotag]Carlos Augusto da Silva[/autotag] (19-2) – July 18 vs. Otto Rodrigues (12-1) at LFA 112 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (UFC Battle Pass)

  • [autotag]Otto Rodrigues[/autotag] (12-1) – July 18 vs. Carlos Augusto da Silva (19-2) at LFA 112 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (UFC Battle Pass)

  • [autotag]Rafael Ramos[/autotag] (9-0) – July 18 vs. Filipe Esteves (7-0) at LFA 112 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (UFC Battle Pass)

  • [autotag]Filipe Esteves[/autotag] (7-0) – July 18 vs. Rafael Ramos (9-0) at LFA 112 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (UFC Battle Pass)

  • [autotag]Gabriel Marretinha[/autotag] (10-0) – July 18 vs. Brenner Alberth (8-0) at LFA 112 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (UFC Battle Pass)

  • Brenner Alberth (8-0) – July 18 vs. Gabriel Marretinha (10-0) at LFA 112 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (UFC Battle Pass)

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Jobber Wiki author Frank Long contributed to this report.