A first-round TKO victory over Josh Koscheck didn’t earn Mauricio Alonso a multi-fight deal with Bellator. Back in action 31 months later, Alonso has the same goal in mind. The Brazilian fighter, who stopped the former UFC star in a welterweight bout back in 2017, faces middleweight Johnny Eblen at Friday’s Bellator 229 in Temecula, Calif.

Eight months after the biggest win of his MMA career, Alonso was a free agent hoping to secure a deal with Bellator. Before the offer came, he stayed active as a jiu-jitsu trainer and competed in grappling tournaments.

Alonso says his routine didn’t change “at all” after defeating a longtime MMA veteran like Koscheck, but he only got “better, stronger and faster” as a fighter.

“It was a good experience for me to fight in the main card of a big event like that, it was really cool,” Alonso told MMA Fighting. “It was a great experience and I felt really comfortable there.”

Alonso, who turns 40 in February, signed another one-fight deal with Bellator ahead of his return, this time in the post-lim portion of the show in Temecula. He’s not holding his breath that a win Friday guarantees a longterm contract, but that’s what he wants.

“My focus is on winning this fight and winning it well, and after that it’s up to God and my manager ‘Joinha’ (Jorge Guimaraes) to handle things for me,” Alonso said. “My job is to train and fight, to go there and win. The rest, that’s with God. There’s no secret.”

“I want to sign a contract with Bellator. Winning it well, I’m definitely hopeful,” he added. “That’s what I want, and I hope that’s what they want as well. Signing a long contract with Bellator would definitely be the best option for me. I’ll be able to fight more frequently and earn my space in the promotion, which is what I would like. Win this fight, sign a contract and build my name inside the company, which is very important for me.”

Eblen, his opponent at Bellator 229, is undefeated as a professional with five wins, including a decision over Chauncey Foxworth in his promotional debut in March. Alonso, who fought 21 times since his MMA debut in 2005, believes he will be too much for the Missouri native on Friday.

“He’s basically a wrestler, but moves better than a traditional wrestler. He’s very loose on the feet,” Alonso said. “I’ve watched some of his fights and I can’t really know how good he is on the feet, but he has a good hand and has some single leg and body lock takedowns.

“He won his last fight at Bellator via decision, but I don’t think he’s ever faced an opponent like me before. He’ll have a hard time against me.”