Brendan Loughnane: Manchester MMA star opens PFL title defence with victory against Marlon Moraes

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Fallowfield featherweight Brendan Loughnane is looking to defend his PFL title - and made an ideal start in Las Vegas with a second-round TKO win.

Manchester MMA star Brendan Loughnane made a winning start to the defence of his PFL featherweight crown against Marlon Moraes in Las Vegas.

The Fallowfield fighter secured a second-round technical knock out (TKO) victory against the former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) contender in Nevada on Saturday night.

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It ensured Brendan, 33, is top of the standings after the first round of fights in the 2023 regular season of the 145lb division of the Professional Fighters League (PFL).

Brendan joined a very select band of UK fighters to bring a top-level mixed martial arts (MMA) belt back to this country last year when he defeated Bubba Jenkins to become PFL featherweight champion, and he is now looking to secure back-to-back titles.

How did Brendan Loughnane do in the PFL regular season opener in Las Vegas?

Brendan returned to the cage for the first time since the history-making night in November 2022 when he became Manchester’s first champion with a major MMA organisation in Las Vegas in a fight that took place in the early hours of Sunday morning (2 April) UK time. The start of his title defence was also the main event of the evening on the card in Nevada.

His first opponent of the 2023 regular season was Brazilian fighter Moraes, who had previously competed in the UFC but entered his first full campaign with the PFL on a five-fight losing streak.

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Brendan Loughnane made a winning start to the defence of his PFL featherweight title against Marlon Moraes. Photo: PFLBrendan Loughnane made a winning start to the defence of his PFL featherweight title against Marlon Moraes. Photo: PFL
Brendan Loughnane made a winning start to the defence of his PFL featherweight title against Marlon Moraes. Photo: PFL | PFL

And the Mancunian quickly set about ensuring it would be six defeats in a row for the 34-year-old Moraes. Brendan, who waved an English flag during his walk-on, unleashed a barrage of powerful low kicks and one particular shot to the leg just over a minute into the second round left Moraes on his back on the canvas and unable to continue, with the referee waving the contest off to give Brendan a TKO win.

The stoppage victory gave Brendan five points in the featherweight standings and put him on top of the table. He is two points clear of his nearest rivals as all the other fights in his division went the distance and were decided by the judges’ scorecards.

What did Brendan say about his victory and what else happened at the PFL?

In his post-fight interview Brendan said: “I just wanted violence. I wanted finishes, I was sat in the back falling asleep watching the other fights. I’m like, I’ve got to go out and save the day.

“My message is clear, I am coming back for my belt. I am already the champion, I don’t believe in this starting again, that was my first title defence.”

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The PFL sees fighters compete in a regular season, with the most successful in each weight class then going through to the playoffs before the final two meet in a $1m showdown.

Brendan had a message for Movlid Khaybulaev, the 2021 featherweight PFL champion, saying he wanted the two of them to meet in the cage in a title fight and suggesting the showdown should take place in his home city.

He said: “There’s my guy. Me and Movlid, five five-minute rounds, Manchester Arena, I’m calling it now, let’s go.”

A meeting between the champions of the last two PFL featherweight seasons is very much a possibility after Khaybulaev made a winning return to the cage, defeating Ryoji Kudo of Japan who reached the semi finals in 2022.

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The other season-opening fights in the featherweight division saw Bubba Jenkins defeat Chris Wade in a battle of two men Brendan beat to pick up the belt last year, Mexico’s Alejandro Flores beat PFL newcomer Daniel Torres and Brazilian Gabriel Braga defeat Peru’s Jesus Pinedo.

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