Competing in the PFL featherweight division is akin to swimming in a shark tank, but Bubba Jenkins has had to face the big fish each and every time.
Former Brave CF champion Jenkins made it all the way to the final of the 2022 featherweight season, but fell at the final hurdle as he was stopped in the fourth round by Brendan Loughnane. Now he’s back for 2023, Jenkins said he’s processed his defeat to Loughnane and is ready for the fray once again.
“I’m biased as hell, so I felt like I was winning most of the rounds and, you know, got stopped into fourth,” he told reporters during a PFL media day ahead of PFL 1 in Las Vegas.
“So I feel like I was winning a race and tripped at the finish line, so to speak. I feel like he did his best job to best me in that round. And, you know, I’m just excited for the season to start again, to get that opportunity again. (After) six months of hard focus, I believe we can not only be back in the same seat, but be holding the belt at the end of the year. So that’s the goal.”
Jenkins’ defeat to Loughnane sent him back to the drawing board as he prepared for the start of the new season, but he also revealed that he’ll be carrying the legacy of that fight into the PFL SmartCage for his upcoming bouts.
“I definitely tweaked some things,” he admitted. I need more orthodox standing, because if I was a little bit more orthodox standing, I wouldn’t have the knot on my shin that I still have to this moment.
“Being in southpaw and him tearing that leg up – I didn’t see the numbers, but if I was gonna go off (the top of) my head, I probably got kicked in that leg 64 times or something. I literally have a shield on my leg now that is the hematoma that has healed and has gone rock solid. So, thanks to him, I’m more dangerous on that side.”
With a clean slate, and a toughened shin, Jenkins is ready for the 2023 PFL featherweight season, and he’s been handed a tough test on his regular season opener as he takes on 2021 finalist and 2022 semi-finalist Chris Wade.
It’s a bout that has plenty of heat under it, with a brewing rivalry between the pair set to come to a head on fight night at PFL 1 on April 1 in Las Vegas after Wade defeated Jenkins by unanimous decision in the 2021 PFL featherweight playoffs.
“It definitely is a fight that’s got to happen. We got to run it back, you know?” said Jenkins.
“I don’t believe I was the same Bubba, Jesse, ‘Bad Man’ Jenkins – any names those were, I was not that guy the first time me and Wade fought. And a little bit of me believes he believes that I was. He believes that he beat a really good, really in-shape (Bubba Jenkins), and that’s not the case. So I’m hoping to show him a new and better and improved Bubba Jenkins.”
It’s a tough start to the 2023 campaign for both men, but for Jenkins in particular, it continues a run of stern tests thrown at him by the PFL’s matchmakers since his arrival in the promotion back in 2021.
“I really didn’t see (the Wade bout) as an advantageous thing for me,” he said.
“I kind of see it as, ‘Damn, PFL! You guys don’t give your boy a break at all! Hey, welcome to the PFL! Why don’t you take on our two-time champion Lance Palmer! Hey, welcome to the PFL! Why don’t you take on veteran Kyle Bochinak on an eight-day notice? Randomly, as you’re getting ready for the tall Korean guy, take on this random Bochniak dude, who is definitely a tough fighter. Oh again! Yeah! Welcome back to the PFL! Why don’t you take on two-time semi-finalist…’ Aaah. OK. It’s always ‘Bad Man’ things. Anybody can get it.”
While Jenkins and Wade may share a management company in Dominance MMA, he doesn’t class himself as a fan of his stablemate. In fact, there’s quite a bit Jenkins isn’t too keen about.
“The thing about Chris Wade is I just have to go back to that place of staying composed,” he explained.
“He has a haircut and a smile that makes me angry. So I’m not too fond of the fact that I know that I’ll have to temper my emotions. But it is a part of why I feel like I didn’t win the championship (last year).”
When asked to explain why he doesn’t like Wade’s haircut and smile, Jenkins elaborated, “I don’t like his face. I don’t like the way he breathes. I don’t like the way he talks. I don’t like the way he laughs. I don’t like the way he cries. I don’t like the way he fights.
“I don’t like anything about Chris Wade, period. Not where he’s from, not where he’s going. There’s nothing about Chris Wade that I can actually say. Other than that, he’s got a great, an amazing, amazing, management team!”