Brendan Loughnane details ‘intense’ training sessions with Conor McGregor ahead of PFL return



Brendan Loughnane certainly didn’t want to lose in the upset to Jesus Pinedo that eliminated him from 2023’s PFL playoffs, but he took full advantage of his unexpected time off.

After competing in three straight season-long tournaments, including four bouts in 2022 which culminated in a $1 million grand prize, the 34-year-old featherweight hasn’t had much time for a break these past few years. Rather than rush back from the knockout loss to Pinedo this past June, Loughnane opted instead to allow his brain and body to heal, while also finally enjoying a personal life that effectively fell by the wayside the past few years.

“It was nice to have that break,” Loughnane told MMA Fighting. “It was so nice. It was a break that was needed. It was a breath of fresh air.

“I bought an apartment that I’d not even seen. I hadn’t seen my friends and family in years. There was places I wanted to travel to. There was developments I wanted to make in my game. I took the time off to heal my brain, heal my injuries, I didn’t spar for another four or five months.”

Loughnane never completely left the gym, but he wasn’t training as intensely as he normally would around a PFL season. The break paid off in more ways than one, especially after he attended a PFL event in Ireland that ended with a visit to a local pub owned by UFC superstar Conor McGregor.

“I went to commentate PFL Dublin, and while I was over there, I went and had a pint at The Forge, and I told [McGregor], ‘When you’re in Dubai, let me know and we’ll train,’” Loughnane said. “He said cool, and then lo and behold, two months later he’s in Dubai. He hit me up on Instagram and said, ‘Do you want to train tonight?’ It was about 9 p.m. ‘Do you want to do some rounds?’

“Yep, straight to the gym and that was it. About four to six weeks, we trained a couple of times a week, just went to the UFC gym there. Sparred a lot of rounds.”

Loughnane has trained with plenty of high-level fighters over the years, but he was excited for the chance to work with somebody like McGregor as they both started preparing for their eventual comebacks.

Loughnane was bouncing back from his first ever knockout loss, while McGregor was getting back into fight shape after suffering a broken leg in 2021.

The month or so he spent training alongside McGregor was beneficial for Loughnane, and he hopes the former two-division UFC champion had the same experience.

“Amazing,” Loughnane said of the training sessions with McGregor. “We were bouncing ideas off of each other. It was going great. In my head, I was like, ‘I hope he’s enjoying this, because I am.’ Then John Kavanagh said Conor was loving the training, and that made me happy because I was enjoying it too.

“We’re both pretty much semi-based in Dubai. I’m over there a lot, he’s over there a lot. Hopefully we can train again.”

McGregor has anxiously awaited the chance to fight again, but it wasn’t until after UFC 300 this past Saturday when his next matchup against Michael Chandler on June 29 was finally announced. Meanwhile, Loughnane kicks off his fourth straight PFL season on Friday when he takes on Pedro Carvalho in an opening round fight at featherweight.

At the time they were training together in Dubai, Loughnane had no fight booked and neither did McGregor, but he saw enough to know “The Notorious” really was back to full strength.

“Conor, he was growing with confidence with each session,” Loughnane said. “We both were. The sessions were getting better, more intense each time we did it. We brought a few more guys in, they were getting very hard toward the end, but then I had to leave Dubai to start my training camp for April.

“At the time, I didn’t have anything booked, he didn’t have anything booked, but we were both training hard. We were two world champions bouncing off each other, sharing ideas. I hope it comes back around again.”

Of course, it will be a little awkward on Friday when Loughnane takes on one of McGregor’s teammates in Carvalho, who also counts John Kavanagh as his head coach. Unlike past PFL fights, Loughnane promises there’s no ill will this time around. He’s looking forward to testing himself against someone like Carvalho, with hopes he’ll cross paths with McGregor again in the future as well.

“John [Kavanagh] knows me very well, which is going to make this fight very interesting,” Loughnane said. “Pedro is another southpaw also. John is a very smart coach, in my opinion. I’d put him up there as the best coach in the world, I really would. His IQ is through the roof. I’ve got a lot of respect for John and Conor and Pedro. This isn’t one of those fights where I’m going to sit and talk s***, because I respect the whole team over there.

“Hopefully when this fight is over, me and John can sink a few Guinness and see when we’re next training with Conor. See what happens.”

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