Over its five-year, six-season history Dana White’s Contender Series has quickly become the principal pipeline for getting new MMA talent out of the regionals and into the UFC. Fighters like Sean O’Malley, Taila Santos, Gregory Rodrigues, Jamahal Hill, and Kevin Holland all found their way onto the prospect-hunting platform before making their jump to the the big show.
On the latest UFC Fight Night: Sandhagen vs. Song, the booth noted that 13 of the night’s 26 athletes were Contenders Series fighters. For fans looking for the next potential rising star on their way into the Octagon, they can do worse than looking to these Tuesday night fight cards.
The latest talent to get a major push from Dana White and the UFC is Raul Rosas Jr. Even before facing off with Mando Gutierrez on September 20th, Rosas was already a notable feature in shoulder programming for this season’s events. Notably because—after beating Gutierrez and earning his UFC contract—the 17-year-old became the youngest signing in the promotion’s history.
While that fact may give some fans and pundits misgivings over the youngster’s ability to compete against his adult opponents, Dana White doesn’t seem to see any need for hesitation. Speaking to media after the latest Contender Series event, the UFC president was effusive in his praise for Rosas and his abilities.
“What a war, what a technical fight it was,” White said of Rosas’ win over Gutierrez (transcript via MMA Junkie). “Both guys pushed themselves as hard as they could. And for a 17-year-old to conduct himself the way he did in this fight, I was blown away by it. Blown away.”
“Not off what I just saw, not off what I just saw,” White added when asked if Rosas might be too young to compete at the top levels of mixed martial arts. “After what I just saw, this kid is ready to fight in the UFC.
“I’m very, very impressed with this kid. He’s absolutely special. The amount of fighter that were blowing me up going, ‘Oh my God. This kid is for real. This kid is legit. Impressive.’”
Having made his debut back in November of 2021, Rosas is already 6-0 in his budding MMA career after picking up a scramble-heavy decision this last time out. It was a notable step up in competition for ‘El Nino Problema’, with the 7-1 Gutierrez being the first fighter Rosas had faced to date with more than two pro fights on his record. No word yet as to when fans might expect to see Rosas make his Octagon debut, but they can be sure that it’ll come with some serious expectations.
“I’m the new king in here, so I’m coming for that belt now.” Rosas told Laura Sanko during his Contender Series interview. “I’m gonna be champion when I’m 20. Respect to everybody, but I’m gonna be champion when I’m 20, or even earlier. Nobody is gonna stop me.”