An emotional Punahele Soriano was battling superstitions as he awaited his turn in the cage at the season opener of Dana White’s Contender Series.
Las Vegas, NV — The first episode of this year’s offering of Dana White’s Contender Series has come and gone. The seventeenth installment of the show was a bit of a mixed bag. For the first time in the show’s history, a fight fell off the card when Leon Shahbazyan was ruled medically ineligible to continue his weight cut.
The fights themselves, meanwhile, saw more decisions than usual. But that didn’t stop Hawaii’s Punahele Soriano from earning a UFC contract. Soriano improved to 6-0 on the night, but went to a decision for the first time in his career against Jamie Pickett.
Soriano was clearly emotional about not getting the finish following the fight. Speaking to reporters including Cageside Press afterward, he admitted that “I went from one side of the spectrum to the other” between getting his hand raised, and finding out he was getting a UFC deal. “I’m so happy right now, and honestly I feel like everything’s hitting me right now. Pain, the punches, I’m starving, I’m so happy I’m in. I can’t believe it, it’s like a dream come true.”
After being unable to land the big knockout blow early, Soriano found himself having to make some “slight adjustments. I was still trying to throw some power, but I was trying to just make them a little more calculated. Slipping off his punches and dinging him, because that dude didn’t budge man. Every crack, that dude didn’t budge at all.”
And so, for the first time in his pro career, Soriano left the first round.
White made note of Soriano’s emotional response to not getting the finish afterward, saying he liked guys that cry over not ending the fight early. “It made me feel happy inside, you know the big boss man to say good stuff about you,” Soriano said regarding White’s words. “I just want to keep that momentum going, snowball, and keep having him say good stuff about me.”
When it comes to what’s next, he might not be ready to call anyone out just yet. “That’s something I’ve probably got to work on. I’m the worst at calling people out, being tough. I’m as tough as nails when I get in there, but outside I’m happy, playful, joyful.”
Soriano had to sit through three fights Tuesday before finally getting in the cage himself. Asked what that felt like, the Hawaiian admitted that “to be honest I’m super superstitious, so I’m counting all the red corner [fighters]” to see whether they won. “So I’m just trying to battle all those things in my head.”
Watch the full post-fight press scrum with Punahele Soriano from Week 1 of the Contender Series, 2019 above!