New England’s Next: Don Shainis knows he’s “on the cusp” of Contender Series, UFC

Don Shainis walks out to the cage. Credit: A. Grace Photography.

New England’s Don Shainis is the latest in a plethora of talent from the region, including Mitch Raposo, Connor Matthews, and others, to look toward UFC President Dana White’s eponymous Dana White’s Contender Series as a means to enter the world’s top MMA promotion.

Shainis, a featherweight fighting out of Massachusetts, is hoping Dana White will give him the opportunity soon.

“I’m on the cusp,” Shainis told MMA-Prospects. “I’m very interested in Contender Series, or a short-notice UFC fight.”

For Shainis and many others, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has been less than ideal, to say the least. A part-time bartender and full-time fighter, Shainis has lost plenty of revenue as 2020 comes to a close.

“I’m a bartender… A bartender who can’t work right now, a fighter who has no upcoming fight booked,” Shainis explained.

“I had momentum that is gone; this year has been f*cked,” the former amateur Cage Titans lightweight champion continued.

“That momentum is gone.”

Shainis’ momentum refers to his seventh professional victory, a KO victory over Kevin Barberena (7-4) that came back in January at Cage Titans 47.

“It’s the absolute worst,” Shainis stated. “You take all that momentum and throw it away. It’s been what, 10 months? Gyms shut down, training was scarce, you have to play catch up, whereas I could be somewhere completely different in my career right now.”

Although aggravated with 2020, the two-fight Bellator veteran knows the future is bright.

The Massachusetts native had an interesting and painful journey to mixed martial arts, but regardless, he fell in love with the sport.

“I got jumped in college, [and got] the shit kicked out of me,” Shainis laughed. “To be honest, I had a lot of fun that night. MMA was starting to get big, [and I] joined the campus club for martial arts. Out of nowhere, suddenly I had a fight. Didn’t even tell my parents,” Shainis explained. “I just showed up to a gym and said, ‘Hey, I have a fight. Can I train?'”

Although it began as a club or activity for the featherweight, Shainis quickly realized he had the talent and love for the sport. Now standing at 7-2 professionally, Shainis proclaims his best attribute as, well, a mix of everything.

“I’m well-rounded,” Shainis explained. “In this sport, you can’t be a dumba**. If you are doing it, do it right. It’s a lifestyle, too. Lots of sacrifices. It’s everything. I just feel if you are doing it, do it right.”

As far as when Shainis feels he will be back in the cage, he is hopeful to return by the end of the year. With his usual home, Cage Titans, out of commission for the time being and fellow local promotion CES MMA not scheduled for another card following CES 61, Shainis is unsure where it will be.

He is hopeful for a slot on the Contender Series but remains ready for whatever comes his way.

“I want December. I have no idea where, but I’ll be ready,” Shainis said. “I’m ready for Contender Series. Just need the chance from Dana White.”

“All I need is that opportunity to go out there and showcase myself, 11 years in the making,” Shainis concluded. “If I go out there and do my thing, no way they can’t love me.”