It has been 26 months since Brendan Loughnane fought within the UFC’s Contender Sequence in Las Vegas. However even two years later, that evening continues to outline his profession.
Loughnane (21-3) faces Movlid Khaybulaev (17-0-1) in a PFL featherweight semifinal on Friday in Hollywood, Florida. The 31-year-old is using a seven-fight win streak and enters the 2021 playoffs because the No. 1 seed in his division. He’s in his twelfth yr as a professional.
However for therefore many on the surface wanting in, these 12 years boil all the way down to that one second in 2019.
“I am at all times gonna be that man,” stated Loughnane, who defeated Bill Algeo on the Contender Sequence however was denied a contract by Dana White for not being sufficient of a “killer” — the UFC president believed Loughnane wasn’t actively on the lookout for a end. “If I stroll into a brand new gymnasium, it is, ‘Oh, wow. You are the man from Contender.’ It isn’t, ‘Wow, you are the man who’s 21-3 as a professional.'”
Loughnane, who hails from Manchester, England, is used to this actuality now, and he says it does not actually trouble him. He cannot permit it to trouble him. It is a part of who he’s. It is by no means going away. No matter something Loughnane does between now and the tip of his profession, that second will at all times be a part of his story.
That story, nevertheless, remains to be being written. To be clear, it isn’t as if this has turn into Loughane’s motivation. He is not combating to easily be remembered as greater than “the man from Contender.” However on the similar time, he was compelled to reassess his profession after what occurred in Las Vegas, and it put him on a path that led him to those PFL semifinals.
“To solidify myself as a world champion, in any case these years of exhausting work and being advised I could not do it, would simply solidify my profession.”
“I really discovered an Instagram publish from 2013 the place I wrote down all of my targets,” Loughnane stated. “And after the Contender combat, I might completed all of them. So, at the moment, there was an enormous reassessment of my profession, and in the end it got here all the way down to turning into a world champion.
“That is the one factor that is eluded me in my profession: a bit of gold. The PFL’s $1 million prize is $1 million, and I am not brushing it off. However cash comes and goes, and it’ll at all times come and go. To solidify myself as a world champion, in any case these years of exhausting work and being advised I could not do it, would simply solidify my profession.”
A PFL championship in 2021 wouldn’t solely solidify Loughnane’s profession, it will solidify the whole lot he is been by for the reason that begin of final yr.
Maybe nobody was extra longing for the beginning of the PFL’s 2020 season than Loughnane. His profession was in limbo in 2019. After he was denied a contract with the UFC, Loughnane signed with the PFL — however not early sufficient to compete within the promotion’s 2019 season.
In January 2020, Loughnane moved to Thailand with a plan to make that his house base for the complete yr. In fact, all of that was disrupted by COVID-19 and the cancelation of the PFL’s 2020 season.
At that time, Loughnane dedicated to leveling up his coaching regardless of the place on this planet it required him to be.
“I simply saved my foot on the fuel,” Loughnane stated. “I used to be sparring [with UFC bantamweight] Petr Yan for his title combat in opposition to Jose Aldo. I used to be sparring [with UFC lightweight] Rafael Fiziev. I headed to the U.Ok. in July as a result of borders had been closing, after which when England began to shut, I went to Dubai and skilled there for six months.”
The UK continued to take care of strict lockdown guidelines that diversified as totally different waves of the pandemic struck by 2020 and early 2021. Loughnane made a couple of stops again in England, however for probably the most half his journey and preparation for the 2021 PFL season has saved him removed from house.
“It has been a little bit of a curler coaster, to be sincere,” he stated. “I’ve skilled for this combat in Las Vegas, so that is my third nation in an area of lower than a yr. I’ve acquired no roots, actually. I have never been house since final September. I am in somebody’s spare bed room, coaching thrice a day. I’ve simply been flying all over the world as this nomad martial artist.”
Up to now, the outcomes have been good. Loughnane kicked off 2021 with a first-round knockout of UFC veteran Sheymon Moraes, lower than three minutes into the combat. Then, in a bloody, bodily battle with Final Fighter alum Tyler Diamond, Loughnane emerged with a majority-decision win.
As he prepares for Khaybulaev, the reality is that Loughnane’s profession has already turn into a lot a couple of second on the Contender Sequence. However these subsequent two fights are a chance to showcase simply how far he is come.
The undefeated Khaybulaev shouldn’t be a family title, however he is a suffocating wrestler from Dagestan with no evident weaknesses. If Loughnane beats him, he’ll face both UFC veteran Chris Wade (19-6) or former NCAA champion wrestler Bubba Jenkins (16-4) within the remaining.
If the whole lot goes based on his plans, Loughnane will return house for the primary time in additional than 15 months as a millionaire and PFL champion. Sure, he’ll nonetheless be the man who controversially wasn’t given a UFC contract in 2019. However maybe that can be a footnote in his profession, as a substitute of the main line.
“I’ve stated to myself I can not go house till I’ve accomplished it,” Loughnane stated. “I simply wish to stroll by my mum’s door with the belt and the verify. I wish to see my buddies, see my god youngsters, my girlfriend — I wish to see the whole lot, and I wish to do it with the belt. That is what is going to make it for me. That is the one approach I will be content material going house.”