Brendan Loughnane has worn a lot of hats in a decade-plus of fighting.
He’s been the unbeaten upstart. The can’t-miss prospect. The Contender Series near-miss. The hardy veteran.
Now, with the PFL, he’s a marked man.
At the league’s season premiere card in April, Loughnane was the only featherweight to score a finish, putting Sheymon Moraes away with strikes inside of one round to earn six points and vault himself to the top of the PFL standings. Should he defeat Tyler Diamond at PFL 4 on Thursday, he’ll lock himself into a playoff spot and remain in contention for a league championship and a $1,000,000 prize.
Currently on a six-fight winning streak, Loughnane (20-3) has gotten used to being on top, and he hopes that whomever he’s matched against brings their best in the remainder of the season.
“Bring ‘em all on,” Loughnane told MMA Fighting. “It’s exactly where I should be. I know I’m heads and shoulders above the rest of them, but it’s a long tournament, this is what we call a season. Only the strong will survive in this one.”
Loughnane was chomping at the bit to get back in action, and he took out all of that frustration on Moraes. Before the outbreak of COVID-19 in March of last year, Loughnane was one of the favorites to win the 2019 PFL season. When the season was cancelled, Loughnane made the most of things, training for six months in Thailand and six months in Dubai before returning to his home base in San Diego.
But don’t think for a second that Loughnane was enjoying his break from competition. Outside of traveling and training, he considered the lost 2020 as having “wasted a year of my prime.” The only other positive he saw was that the PFL continued to sign talent throughout the pandemic.
Now, Loughnane sees a roster of opponents who can elevate his own name.
“What I enjoy is that in that meantime they signed loads of new talent again,” Loughnane said. “Bubba [Jenkins], Tyler, they upped the rankings again. So in that meantime they made the tournament even harder. It made for tougher competition, and I’ll get the recognition I deserve when I beat these top level athletes. I didn’t want to go for a tournament with people that aren’t considered world-class people.
“I think we’ll all agree that Lance [Palmer] and Bubba, Movlid [Khaybulaev], are all world class. We’ll all agree on that. So when I get the job done here, people can’t say that it wasn’t done against the best of the world.”
Not only did Loughnane win in his PFL regular season debut (he’d previously won two “special attraction” bouts for the league outside of the season structure), he also scored his first finish since November 2018. The finish was particularly sweet given that Moraes had questioned Loughnane’s ability to end fights.
Loughnane expects a similar level of aggression from Diamond on Thursday.
“With them two exhibition fights and the fight on the Contender [Series], them guys were covering up and trying to survive,” he said. “A win to them was hearing the final bell. It’s really hard to finish someone when they just cover up and they survive, whereas Sheymon I knew that he was gonna come and and he was gonna try and knock me out. I knew that openings would come as he tried to finish, so I think the same with Tyler Diamond.
“Tyler Diamond opens up, he looks for the finish, and I think the best time to finish is when your opponent actually plays ball and they’re looking for the finish also.”
Three more wins is all that’s standing between Loughnane and a million dollars. More importantly for him, they’re all that’s standing in the way of his first major championship.
At 31, Loughnane has had a pair of brushes with the UFC (both through The Ultimate Fighter and the Contender Series), he’s fought for major promotions across Europe, and now he can lay claim to being one of the best featherweights in the world if he completes this 2021 campaign as planned. Other than buying a house, he has no major plans for the million, as he wants to be recognized as a world champion first and then figure things out from there.
“I’m not really money motivated, if I’m honest,” Loughnane said. “I’m motivated by the knockbacks that I’ve had in my career. The money’s a nice little bonus, but I’m here to be a world champion. It took me 13 years of hard work to get to where I am now.
“These guys—this is a message to all of you—you are going to have to kill me, I am not going anywhere and that is the truth. What I’ve been through to get to this stage, it’s all on the line for me. Kill or be killed.”