Not all MMA competitions and promotions are created the same. Just ask Brendan Loughnane.
The Englishman captured the 2022 PFL featherweight championship and is currently sitting on top of the 145-pound standings ahead of his bout with Jesus Pinedo at PFL 4 in Atlanta on Thursday night.
But, despite looking in top form and in prime position to capture back-to-back championships in the PFL, Loughnane said the relentless nature of the PFL’s $1 million season is not something he plans to continue for too much longer.
Speaking to Sean O’Connell and Dan Hardy on The DAZN MMA Show, Loughnane explained that fighting in the PFL’s regular season requires not just a willingness to fight frequently, but also a complete change in approach.
“I was a guy that would fight probably once every six months, every four months, something around that. So your whole life has to change,” he said.
“This is a lifestyle. This isn’t ‘get fat in between camps, and chill out and have a few beers on a Sunday.’ This is several months of your life. You are in, locked in. Nothing else is happening in your life, apart from fighting, and I feel like that focus and that dedication for the last three years has turned me into an unbreakable person in the cage and outside the cage. You do have to dedicate your whole entire soul and spirit to it.”
During his 31-fight career, Loughnane has fought across the globe for a range of different promotions. But the demands of the PFL have required a level of singular focus that is rarely experienced elsewhere.
“This isn’t something where, you know, you just do it,” he said.
“Like, I don’t even have a home right now. I live with a gumshield and a backpack and just travel the world and fight people every day. This is the whole lifestyle. What a way (to live)! Nomad, MMA, travel the world, loving it. I’m 34, coming up, but I feel like I’m 21. What more can I say?”
Life on ‘Fighter Street’
That focus requires the right environment, and Loughnane said he’s found the perfect spot in Phuket, Thailand, where he regularly heads for fight camps at the famed Tiger Muay Thai gym. The surroundings of the local area are perfect for a fighter looking for elite-level training, but without many of the outside distractions.
“That’s exactly the reason that I go,” he explained.
“Because if you go to Manchester, you go to Dubai or any of these places, you might be one of a hundred people. You go to Soi Taied in Thailand, every single person’s (training).
“You’ve got a mile-long strip with maybe six gyms, seven or eight yoga places, a spa, 10 hotels, all healthy eating – you can’t even get a bad meal on this street. And they call it ‘Fighter Street’. All world-class (athletes). Petr Yan, Rafael Fiziev, all of us on this street. And we’re just looking at each other, and we’re training two, three times a day.
“And when I say immersed, I am immersed. I don’t have anything else going on. I am in the gym, or I’m in my hotel, resting for my next session. I get meals delivered to my door in the morning and I am literally truly, truly living the martial arts lifestyle.”
A new chapter in 2024?
That approach saw Loughnane reach the featherweight playoffs in 2021, then go all the way to the championship in 2022. But, despite discovering the winning formula, Loughnane said that he plans on embracing a fresh challenge after the 2023 season is over.
“I am, hand on heart, giving you my final answer on this,” he said.
“This is my last season. It is. Put me on this Super Fight (division) thing with Ngannou and all that. Yep, let’s go. But four fights in seven months (again)? Forget about it!”
Loughnane plans on finishing the 2023 campaign as a two-time PFL featherweight champion, and said that he would love to be a major part of proceedings when the PFL’s newest, biggest, most lucrative new signing – Francis Ngannou – makes his promotional debut.
“I would love to be on Francis’ card,” he said.
“I think Francis has got a massive set of balls, and I’m glad he did what he did. I’m glad he’s in the PFL, and I know the whole world is going to tune in to watch Francis, so if I can take 10 percent of his fanbase by putting on an exciting fight on his card, I’m here for it!”
And, when asked who his perfect opponent would be for such an assignment, Loughnane admitted that his ideal dance partner is someone he’s unlikely to see across from him any time soon.
“One fight that you want, I want, the whole world always wanted – it’s never gonna happen,” he said.
“It’s seven years in the making. But I think me versus Paddy Pimblett is the fight. It was always the fight. And I think if there was one where I could say, ’That has to be ticked off (the list) before it’s all said and done,’ that is the one everyone wanted to see, just for the Northwest rivalry. But Paddy’s in the UFC, I’m in the PFL. I’d say that was the one that I always said would have to get done before I hung it up.”