Brendan Loughnane has long since moved on from the moment he got passed over for a UFC contract despite a dominant win over Bill Algeo on Dana White’s Contender Series back in 2019, but it’s still a subject that comes up often.
On that night, the UFC president derided Loughnane for a tactical game plan where he ultimately went for a takedown late in the fight to secure the win rather than going for broke to finish Algeo. Less than four months later, Loughnane joined the roster at the PFL where he’s put together a 9-1 record while claiming the $1 million prize as the 2022 featherweight champion.
As he prepares for his second bout in 2023 with a chance to take another step towards a second million-dollar prize, Loughnane has absolutely no regrets about the way his career has played out. In fact, Loughnane would argue that he got the better deal than Algeo, who ended up signing with the UFC and now boasts a 4-3 record in the promotion.
“I think about the guy I fought that night [on The Contender Series] Bill Algeo — he just signed another five-fight deal [with the UFC] and he’s got a few wins he’s put together,” Loughnane said when speaking to MMA Fighting. “But it’s like who would I rather be right now? Would I rather be me or would I rather be Bill? I’d rather be me.
“I’m making really, really good money. I’m a champion. I’m getting the respect that I deserve from the sport.”
While the UFC remains the biggest and most popular organization in MMA, Loughnane has become one of the faces of the PFL with several main event fights under his belt along with the chance to earn seven figures each year he enters the season format.
He’s also putting together an impressive resume that should place him among the best featherweights in the world regardless of the promotion where he fights. In fact, Loughnane argues that there’s parity across the globe when it comes to MMA and it’s utterly fanciful to suggest the best fighters in the world only exist in the UFC.
“UFC is a machine and they are the premiere organization,” Loughnane explained. “They built the sport in a lot of aspects but now Bellator has gotten an incredible roster. PFL has an incredible roster. Any champion from the PFL, any champion from Bellator and any champion from the UFC and even ONE [Championship], they could all fight each other and it would be mixed results. I don’t care what anyone says, it really would be.
“I think the world of MMA, everyone is catching up to each other now and it’s getting extremely competitive. It’s a great time to be an MMA fighter. There’s options everywhere now.”
When it comes to the PFL specifically, Loughnane knows you have to look no further than the long list of fighters who have joined the promotion in free agency but struggled to win meaningful fights much less make it all the way to the end of a season for a chance to win $1 million.
Ex-UFC lightweight champion Anthony Pettis went 1-4 through five fights with the PFL. One-time UFC title challenger and former Bellator champion Rory MacDonald went 2-4 and ultimately retired from the sport following a knockout loss to Dilano Taylor this past August.
“The list goes on, I could name so many that have come over and I’m telling you now, fighting for the PFL, its own animal,” Loughnane said. “It’s very different.”
Even Loughnane has discussed the possibility of opting out of the season long tournament in the past just because it’s such a rigorous schedule that demands so much out of a fighter during a relatively short period of time.
With four fights scheduled inside seven months in order to compete in the finals, that’s a tough road to travel for anybody, although Loughnane admits as challenging as it can be at times, he still loves it.
Even though Loughnane might be tempted to pursue bigger one off matchups when the PFL launches a “Super Fight” division on pay-per-view in 2024, he still has a hard time contemplating an exit from the season long format he’s grown to love.
“I go back and forth with this on a daily basis,” Loughnane said. “It was hell thinking about doing it again like ‘f****** tournament again, I don’t want to do it.’ Now that I’m here, I’m happy. I’ve got my schedule, I’ve got my routine. I’ve got my weight under control. My coaching’s good. I feel like I’m a real tournament fighter now. I almost feeling like I would miss this if I wasn’t doing this now.
“I’ve got all these paychecks coming around fast. During COVID, I went a year and a half without a paycheck so they come around thick and fast now. PFL is really getting behind me. I’m coming into my own as a fighter at 33 years old. My confidence is through the roof and I’m glad to keep getting regular competition. So I’m really glad that I’m back in the tournament format and that’s the truth.”