Brendan Loughnane

Russian-based promotion Absolute Championship Berkut return to the UK for their Manchester event ACB 54 on March 11 following their ACB 47: Braveheart show in Glasgow, Scotland last October. It features a rematch which has UK MMA fans talking, as Brendan Loughnane battles against fellow The Ultimate Fighter alumni Mike Wilkinson.

Absolute Championship Berkut have established themselves as one of the fastest growing MMA promotions on the planet and continue to do so after putting together a world class European fight card on its debut show in England at the Manchester Arena this weekend.

The pair first fought in TUF: The Smashes Finale back in 2012 where Wilkinson secured a decision victory, a decision that Loughnane still disputes till this day. Days before the event on Saturday Loughnane spoke to MMA Plus about his upcoming bout.

“The pieces have just fell into place for this rematch, I’ve not been pushing for nothing, it got offered to me and I took it,” Loughnane told MMA Plus ahead of his fight at the Manchester Arena on March 11. “Like you say it’s the MEN Arena we’re both local lads so it should be a great fight. I mean our last fight made him and this one could potentially break him so it’s a bit of a weird one really, Mike’s coming off two losses, I’m coming off three straight wins so it’s a very intriguing and interesting matchup.”

Since his victory on the TUF Finale, Wilkinson endured a three-fight stint with the UFC where he held a record of 1-2 before being released by the promotion. Loughnane has gone on to fight for a number of smaller promotions holding record of 8-1 since that loss in 2012 and believes ‘the timing is right for the rematch’.

“My last fight with Mike was definitely a big learning curve, I’ve been on a good streak and I feel like the timing is right for a rematch. I went away and I’m 8-1 since then and even that other one is one of them controversial ones, there is no better time or place for the rematch when I feel as good as I do so I’m looking forward to it.”

The Englishman’s only other loss came by way of split decision against Tom Duquesnoy (14-1), who make his debut for the UFC at UFC on FOX 24 against Patrick Williams on April 15. This was another decision which the Brit himself and some MMA fans saw as controversial and Loughnane now feels he can never leave his fate in the hands of the judges.

“Well after the first one with Mike it broke my heart and then the second one I just said it’s never going to happen again and so far so good with three straight finishes.”

The two Manchester fighters trained with one another during their time on TUF and according to Brendan, this has made preparing for this fight much easier.

“Yeah, 100% I’ve probably sparred with Mike 50 rounds on The Ultimate Fighter so I’ve fought him for free and I know exactly what he’s going to do. He’s not changed his style I mean I’ve added a few weapons but really I’m pretty much the same fighter as well so it’s going to be interesting.”

Loughnane gets his chance at revenge against Wilkinson

Despite his opponent winning their first bout Loughnane sees this weekend’s bout having an entirely different outcome and will look to avenge the first loss of his professional career.

“I just feel like I’m a much wiser Brendan now I mean I’ve had a lot of fights since then I’ve been on a great win streak, trained all over the world and I know what Mike brings to the table. He’s a very tough lad he hits very hard and he’s very tenacious but I just feel like my skill levels are much above him now. 100 per cent revenge is always sweet, let’s not get it twisted, but I will be coming to take what was mine four years ago.”

Although he vows to take back what was his four years ago the Mancunian admits he was not ready to make the step when the two local lads first shared the Octagon together but now knows what it takes to compete with the elite fighters In the sport.

“I just feel like I wasn’t ready for the UFC back then and now I feel like I’m in my prime and I’m ready to do it properly this time so I feel like it was all for a reason. I live and breathe the sport, I train all day every day and finally I’m reaping my rewards, I mean I don’t really take time off I’ve been all round the world training at top team, Dominic Cruz I’ve been all over now so I’ve got good experience and I’ve been in good hard fights so I know what it takes to be the best.”

Potential showdown between Pimblett and Loughnane

The Tanko signed fighter is hoping hope he can carry over his good form into 2017 after a very active and successful 2016; Loughnane went 3-0 last year securing three straight TKO victories over David Lee, Eden Newton and Paul Cook and despite being linked with a return to the UFC he insists he doesn’t care what promotion he fights for as long as he’s involved in ‘big fights’.

The decision, Paddy Pimblett vs. Julian Erosa from CW Unplugged – Photo Dolly Clew

Last year a potential bout between himself and Paddy Pimblett was in the works after Tanko allowed their fighter to go over to Cage Warriors to fight Pimblett. There was plenty of hype behind making this fight happen in what was labelled as a battle between Manchester and Merseyside however due to a disagreement in the contract between Loughnane and Cage Warriors the fight never materialised.

Pimblett is now set to fight in front of his home crowd of Liverpool when he defends his featherweight title against Nad Narimani at Cage Warriors 82 on April 1. If the Liverpudlian successfully defends his belt for a second time Loughnane admitted the time may be right for the two to re-open negotiations.

“It’s what everyone wants to see so let’s make it happen. It’s a very, very tough fight for Paddy I think that one, I mean Nad’s a very good fighter so if he gets through that I think we should sit back down at the table and see what happens.”

The Manchester born fighter and Cage Warriors were unable to come to an agreement after CW wanted Loughnane to defend the title three times under their promotion if he was to successfully defeat Paddy. However, Loughnane stated they were not the terms they agreed on and he would defend the title once at most.

“I mean I’ve been on a good streak and I do hold cards, I’ve got a massive following and everyone wants to see the fight so it’s not just a case of sign everything over it’s a very 50/50 negotiation.”