After falling short in his first tilt at a PFL title, Bubba Jenkins has regrouped, refocused, and is ready to put things right in his second run at the gold.
Jenkins was considered one of the pre-season favorites to capture the PFL featherweight championship in 2021, but he fell at the semi-final stage to eventual runner-up Chris Wade. The sting of that defeat lives on inside the American, who said he’s used the pain of that loss to propel him to greater things.
“The humble pie Chris Wade served me, it tasted like death, it tasted like acid,” he said.
“I’m still running from that moment. I’m still running from that night, that feeling. It’s not even like a chase towards the belt and championship. It’s a run in the fear from ever seeing that look on my fans again, on my family, on my sons, on my daughter, you know?
“I disappointed a lot of people. It was a definite understanding from my perspective that, no, we dropped the ball, and we need to get that back.”
It meant that Jenkins, a former NCAA Division I champion and junior world champion on the wrestling mat, took his game to a new level as he looked to go all the way in the 2022 PFL season.
The improvements have been there for all to see. Jenkins claimed decision victories over Kyle Bochniak and Reinaldo Ekson in his two regular-season bouts, then finished hard-hitting Japanese contender Ryoji Kudo via first-round rear-naked choke in the semi-finals to punch his ticket to the $1 million PFL World Championships, where he’ll take on England’s Brendan Loughnane for the featherweight title and the seven-figure prize.
“I’m truly focused on the championship and Brendan Loughnane and the five rounds that I have to do in order to become not only the million-dollar man, but a world champion,” he said.
“He better pray I’m only a three-round fighter. He better pray I’m only a three-round fighter. Because if he’s not, he can’t deal with five rounds of ‘The Bad Man.’ And he knows it.”
His fighting moniker came from his fighting hero, Muhammad Ali, and a moment between himself and his coach after they turned to Ali’s words following the legendary boxer’s death in 2016.
“We were actually in my garage hitting some things and Muhammad Ali died and I was like, ‘Damn, coach. I didn’t get to meet him and didn’t get to see him.’
“We just put on some Ali audio and I was just hitting the ball in my room and I just started moving and doing some things, and (my coach) was like, ‘Man, that’s a bad man! That’s a bad man!’ So that’s where the ‘I’m a bad man,’ came from.”
Jenkins adopted the moniker as he progressed from Bellator to Bahrainian promotion Brave CF via a stint with Russian promotion ACB. It was with Brave that he really hit his stride as he claimed two straight wins to capture the promotion’s featherweight title.
Jenkins’ momentum was halted by the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic, as he signed for the PFL and had to wait for his debut.
His first season with the promotion saw him impress as he used his wrestling to take him to the semi-final stage, where that crushing loss to Wade left him wondering what might have been.
But now Jenkins has found his mojo once again and said that he’s primed and ready to reach the featherweight summit when he faces Loughnane on November 25, live on ESPN+ pay-per-view.
“‘The Bad Man’ has looked himself in the mirror and has made some questions and some answers,” he said.
“I speak in the third person because we’re talking about the different mentality – to look yourself in the mirror and say, ‘What are you doing? Who are you? What do you want to become?’
“It’s at that moment when I said to myself, ‘Bad Man, Bubba, Jesse,’ – whichever one I needed to speak to, all – ‘we need to lock in and go to become the champion that everyone knows that we need to become.’ This is why I called this camp ‘The culmination of a champion.’
“This fight is bigger than me and I understood late, but I understood and I understand now. I’m not blind to the moment that I’m in, or the opportunities that I have to change lives.”
With Jenkins’ mindset fully focused on capturing the PFL featherweight crown, he had a warning for his opponent ahead of fight night in New York City.
“Loughnane is not as fast as he thinks he is. He’s not as strong as I am,” he stated.
“If you come to wrestle me, I’m gonna slaughter you. If you come to bang with me, I’m gonna slaughter you. If you come to fight with me. I’m gonna slaughter you.”
The 2022 PFL World Championship takes place at the Hulu Theater, Madison Square Garden, New York on Friday, November 25, live on ESPN+ pay-per-view.