But the veteran was denied a contract by the UFC president, who was critical of Loughnane's decision to go for a takedown attempt with 10 seconds left in the third round instead of slugging it out.
So, was White wrong in not awarding the 29-year-old Loughnane a UFC deal?
This was one topic discussed in this week's Ariel & The Bad Guy episode, streamed exclusively on ESPN+.
Note: Gilbert Melendez substituted for Chael Sonnen on Wednesday's show.
Ariel Helwani: Ariel Helwani: Gil, I really disagree with this decision on the UFC's part and on Dana White's part, in particular. I think Brendan deserves to be in the UFC. I think he's a UFC-caliber fighter. I thought that was the best fight on the card. I think he fought his heart out. He wants to be in the UFC, he's been campaigning to be in the UFC, he's got a loyal and passionate following behind him, including the likes of Tyson Fury. I don't understand what the problem is. That was a great fight. The guy poured his heart out into that fight, and you saw him afterwards. He was bloody, he was beaten, he was bruised. After the fight, in fact, he went on Instagram after the fight and showed us a shot of his toilet -- he was urinating blood. That's how much he put into that fight. And so this idea that he doesn't deserve a contract, he doesn't deserve to be in the UFC because he didn't go for broke in the last 10 seconds because he went for a double leg in the last 10 seconds to secure the victory doesn't sit well with me.
Look, in the brief history of the Contender Series show, no one has gotten a contract off of a loss. And so if you're going to go for a takedown, 10 seconds left in the fight and just try to get the W to secure your spot, I have no problem with that. If you're going to come out and tell us that the only way you're going to get a contract if you're on this show is if you win by knockout, then OK, come out and say it. But what's wrong in a fight like that where it's clear you're not going to finish your opponent, going for a takedown with 10 seconds left, why should that be used against you? Last I checked, takedowns are legal, takedowns are encouraged. It's a part of mixed martial arts. Why is that being used against this guy when, again, I think it was the most impressive performance on the show. Sure, he didn't get a finish like Yorgan De Castro, but to me Brendan Loughnane is a veteran of this game, he's from the U.K., he's someone that you can build, and he's someone that wants to be in the UFC. And by the way, he was in the UFC seven years ago.
So, to say that one day he's going to be in the UFC, this is a guy what went outside of the UFC, fought the best and now came back and tried to get this opportunity and you're taking that away from him because he went for a takedown with 10 seconds left? I don't agree with it and I think it's a really bad move on their part.
Gilbert Melendez: I'm going to jump in here and I'm going to slightly disagree. I'm going to defend Dana White just a little bit on this one. I believe he's setting the tempo for the Contender Series, the new season, his show. Many times I've fought and I pissed blood. There's many fighters out there not on the big stage putting on great shows that are worthy of the UFC where TVs aren't even there and cameras aren't even there and we're pissing blood afterwards, and these things happen in the sport.
I feel like Brendan did a great job, he fought well. I think he could have finished his opponent in the third round, I think he was outclassing him. I think when you look back at some of the most memorable fights in the history of the UFC, I think of the last 20 seconds of the fight between Ricardo Lamas and Max Holloway, where Max Holloway was ahead on the scorecards but he pointed to the center of the Octagon and he said let's throw down, let's swing for these punches. And that was a great fight, but that was the most legendary moment of that fight. I happened to be in one of the most legendary fights in the UFC against Diego Sanchez, and the reason why that's legendary was because we held our ground the last 10 seconds and we had crazy exchanges out there. I think Brendan was on the verge of a very legendary fight and he cut himself short by going for that takedown where I think he could have stepped on the gas pedal and really went for the kill. Do I think he doesn't deserve to be in the UFC? No, I think he deserves to be in the UFC. I just think Dana White is trying to set a tempo. He wants some killers. He wants people to point to the center of the Octagon with 30 seconds left and say let's leave it all out here, let's go for it, let's not go for the double. Now we can go back to Israel Adesanya versus Kelvin Gastelum, where he went for the double -- he almost had that knockout -- but that was a different situation where he was a little tired and his instinct had him do that.
I think Brendan had the opportunity to kind of really go for the kill or attempt a kill a couple times in the third round. He was picking him apart. I think he was the better striker and was starting to outclass that last third round. And he could have took in a couple of sprints in there where he could have just fired away ... a little more in the pocket besides just landing straight right, backing out, straight right, backing out. A couple more flurries and a beautiful 10-second flurry would have really sealed the deal for him out there. So, he did a fantastic job, but, in Dana White's defense, I see the tempo he's trying to set here and I'm just defending him a little bit here.
Helwani: Look, if this is the message that Dana White wants I think the message has been sent. I think everyone understands the message. I will say with all due respect, I think his situation, the situation that Brendan was in yesterday was a lot different than the examples that you gave - all legendary fights - but in this particular case the guy is literally fighting for his career. He's talked about wanting to retire if he couldn't make it to the UFC, so I think in his mind he knows that the fight is locked up. And let's be clear: We're not talking about the last 60 seconds he goes for a takedown and he just lays on his opponent, we're talking about the last 10 seconds. The last 10 seconds we're going to stop this guy from making it to the UFC when there are a lot less deserving fighters in the UFC because he went for a takedown in the last 10 seconds? That just makes no sense to me. ... Look, the main event of that card, that fight went the distance and it wasn't even half as exciting as that fight. So I just don't understand how you can justify it.
Melendez: That's a great point, Ariel. That's a great point, especially when you matched it up to the other fights.
Helwani: Thank you, Gil. I appreciate it. I'll take that victory.