Manchester fighter Brendan Loughnane has become a world MMA champion after winning his $1m title fight at the world-famous Madison Square Garden venue in New York. Fallowfield fighter Brendan, 32, became the first person to bring a global-level belt in mixed martial arts (MMA) back to the city after triumphing in the featherweight division of the Professional Fighters League (PFL).
Brendan became the promotion’s 145lb belt holder by defeating his American opponent Bubba Jenkins in the fourth round of their showdown in the cage. Afterwards Brendan paid tribute to his mum and his Manchester supporters who had travelled across the Atlantic Ocean to support him in the big championship fight.
How did Brendan Loughnane become the PFL featherweight champion?
Brendan entered the cage for the PFL World Championship to face Jenkins in what was one of the most hotly-anticipated match-ups on the card in which six title belts and $6m in prize money were handed out.
It was a classic MMA match-up pitting a striker against a wrestler, with Brendan entering the contest as the number four seed in the 145lb division.
And with his family watching at cageside the fight swung decisively Brendan’s way in the fourth of the five scheduled five-minute rounds. Halfway through the round Brendan dropped his opponent to his knees on the canvas with a large right-hand punch before landing an unstoppable succession of blows which prompted the referee to stop the fight and give the Mancunian a technical knock out (TKO) win.
The victory, the biggest of his career so far, now means the Fallowfield fighter has a professional record of 25 wins and four losses.
The PFL is unique among major MMA organisations in that it runs a league season, with fighters competing in a round-robin competition before the best in each division go through to the playoffs and then ultimately the finals night where the belt holders are decided.
Brendan is the first Manchester fighter to win a high-level professional MMA belt and only the fourth English champion in the entire history of the sport. His name now sits alongside that of former UFC middleweight champion Michael Bisping (a fellow North West fighter who is originally from Clitheroe), the UFC’s current welterweight belt holder Leon Edwards and Liam McGeary, who became the light-heavyweight champion in Bellator in 2015.
What did Brendan Loughnane say after becoming the PFL featherweight belt holder?
There were emotional scenes in the cage and wild celebrations at cageside in the moments after Brendan’s victory. Chants of “Manchester!” could be heard in the arena as the fighters waited for the official result to be read out.
Afterwards, with the PFL featherweight belt draped over his shoulder and the giant cheque for $1m in his hand, he said: “It’s emotional. Thank you to everybody, everybody at the PFL. This is my second season in the PFL, this is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. This is the hardest competition in sport, never mind combat.
“All these people that have spent their money to come out here, who’ve got on a flight, who’ve booked a hotel. Times are hard, Covid has just ended. Every person here put money out their bank account to come to watch me perform, this one’s for you, thank you.”
Brendan was joined in the cage by his mum and he paid tribute to her, saying: “This woman here is my rock. This woman spurred me on when we didn’t have a pound in the bank, and now look what we’ve got.”
The fight was also an important milestone in Brendan’s aim to be discussed among the truly elite featherweight fighters in MMA. He said: “Forget the belt, forget the million, it’s about the performance. I’m trying to prove how good I am. I believe I’m one of the best featherweights on planet Earth in any organisation and I think I showed it tonight.”
There was also great sportsmanship between the two combatants at the end, with Brendan saying about Bubba: “I really like your style. It was unfortunate we had to fight each other in the final. I love this guy from the bottom of my heart, I really do.” The two fighters then embraced as Bubba congratulated his Mancunian conqueror.