Earlier this year, Jonathan Pearce got the call to face Bryce Mitchell, but a knee injury forced him out of his first real opportunity to stake his claim as one of the elite fighters at featherweight.
As he went through rehab and worked his way back to a good bill of health, he took a step back to view the fight game from a different perspective. He believes that what’s he’s accomplished thus far in the Octagon is setting the foundation for his reign at the top of the division.
All he’s got to do is break through.
“It allowed me to see where I’m at in the game – what I’ve actually done,” Pearce told UFC.com. “Five-fight win streak, there’s not a lot of people with a win streak like that. Last time I fought it was for No. 15, but let’s just scratch that five off and make it No. 1.
“I felt like I was kind of forgotten about,” Pearce said in terms of his frustrating 2023. “I think I deserve an opportunity versus Alexander Volkanovski but I don’t think that they’re going to give that to me next. That’s why I’ll ask for Bryce again.”
But Pearce is ready to shake off a “bump in the road” year on the sidelines this weekend when he faces Joanderson Brito this weekend at UFC Fight Night: Allen vs Craig.
At 31 years old, Pearce feels like he’s in his prime and he feels like Brito hasn’t faced anyone of his caliber yet in the UFC. One major advantage that Pearce sees against Brito is his ability to put together a well-rounded fight that uses wrestling to set up other dangerous aspects of his game.
And maybe, most importantly, he’s coming into the fight with a “run through you” mentality that is unwavering.
“I can fight in any position. Standing, wrestling, jiu jitsu,” Pearce began. “I can fight on big cards, little cards. I can be the guy who shows up on short notice. I can be the guy who can fight big names.”
Extending his win streak to six in a row is exactly how Pearce can get the opportunity for those big fights on big cards. Delivering excellent performances as the stakes continue to get higher is what Pearce has on his mind, and he’s hoping that’s what is in his near future with a win over Brito.
“[The Top 15] is kind of gatekept. Once you get around the 15, you’ve got to be marketable for one, but two, a lot of these guys that are up there are older. They have 10 or more UFC fights or something like that,” Pearce said. “There’s a respect that comes with it after you fight for the company for a while, and if you break the Top 10 and go for the title, they’ll keep you at number 5 a little bit longer and give you right matchups to develop you. My goal is to bust through that. I know I’m better than 15 right now, but I’ll just bust through that 15 and make a statement.
“I think if you don’t fight all year and they still are running 15 next to your name, whether they want to put it on paper or not, and six straight after I beat this guy, I deserve to fight Volkanovski, but I’m probably not going to get that.”
In a nutshell, Brito is what Pearce believes is standing in the way of interviews, big names, and paydays, and he’s confident that right now he’s in the best position possible to take that step.
Don't miss a moment of UFC Fight Night: Allen vs Craig, live from the UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada. Prelims start at 2pm ET/11am PT, while the main card kicks off at 5pm ET/2pm PT.