Brendan Loughnane and Ryoji Kudo | Cooper Neill, PFL
Brendan Loughnane admits that his first opponent this season is a mystery man.
On the PFL 2 main card tonight, Loughnane (21-4) faces league newcomer Ryoji Kudo (10-2-1), an up-and-coming Japanese talent who has competed for the ONE Championship and Shooto promotions. Loughnane is making his second run at a championship and a $1,000,000 prize after a semifinal finish in last year’s featherweight tournament and while he’s confident in his chances, he isn’t quite sure what to make of Kudo.
“You probably know about as much as I know,” Loughnane said in an interview with MMA Fighting when asked about his upcoming opponent. “I feel like I’ve ended up with a guy who’s coming in from Japan, 10 wins, eight knockouts, can throw hands fast. It’s one of them like he’s not a Chris Wade or a Bubba [Jenkins], which we’ve seen multiple times in this level of organization fighting and you can make good reads on things.
“I’ve got the wild card so that’s what I’m fully prepared for, but I’ve got to be prepared to fight all nine of them guys and that’s what I am.”
Last season, Loughnane entered as one of the most experienced featherweights on the roster after two previous non-tournament appearances for the PFL. He opened the season with a highlight-reel knockout of World Series of Fighting and UFC veteran Sheymon Moraes, then won a decision over Tyler Diamond, a competitor from The Ultimate Fighter 27, to earn a spot in the semifinals where he lost to eventual league champion Movlid Khaybulaev.
Kudo’s relative lack of notoriety has Loughnane somewhat concerned heading into their fight.
“I want big fights against big names,” Loughnane said. “I was hoping that they would bring over some major landmark names like last year when I got Sheymon I was like, ‘Right, OK. Sheymon’s been in and around that top 15 of the UFC. He’s fought Zabit [Magomedsharipov] and he’s fought all these guys.’ So I was happy to get that name. I also like taking name value as well as the actual skill of the fighter.
“So I haven’t looked at the wild card. I don’t like it when it’s heavily in my favor like that because sometimes it’s like, ‘You have to go out and you have to finish him,’ whereas for all we know this guy could be the next f****** Conor McGregor. (laughs) You know what I mean? We don’t know, we’ll see.”
Cooper Neill, PFL
Tyler Diamond and Brendan Loughnane
Loughnane was also asked to give a rapid-fire assessment of the rest of the 2022 featherweight field:
2022 finalist Chris Wade?
Fellow 2022 semifinalist Bubba Jenkins?
“I like Bubba. I really do. He’s cool, I just saw him a minute ago. We always have a banger. I wish him the best.”
“Sheymon, I’ve got a hell of a lot of respect for. Sheymon came back after that loss [to me] and won two fights back to back straight after that, so I’ve got a lot of respect for Sheymon and I wish him the best as well.”
Two-time PFL champion Lance Palmer?
“Who knows what mind frame Lance Palmer is in? Last season he didn’t look very hungry but he might have gone back and reinvented himself so we might see a new one, let’s see. Him and Wade is a very interesting fight.”
Are you disappointed that you won’t have the chance to rematch last season’s champion Movlid Khaybulaev, who is out due to an injury?
“I mean, yes and no. Yes, because I would like to avenge my loss, but no, because now I look up and down the paper, I always knew last year that he was gonna be the toughest fight and now he’s not here this season. I’m not saying that we’re clean sailing by any stretch of the imagination, but I look up and down and I think I can beat all these guys, I really do. I think I can beat them comfortably.”
The rest of the field is comprised of recent UFC competitors Kyle Bochniak and Boston Salmon and two fighters competing in their first PFL season, Saba Bolaghi and Alejandro Flores. Loughnane has no control over who he’ll be matched up with after Kudo or who he could potentially face in the postseason and that suits him just fine.
“Like I say, I’m prepared for all the other nine guys,” Loughnane said. “Everyone poses a different threat, so bring it on. Bring on the carnage and the chaos.”