Chris Wade is a familiar name in the PFL playoffs, having qualified for the final bracket each of the organization's four seasons in operation thus far. This time, however, he seems to be entering the elimination rounds with a bit more fire in his belly.
"Yeah, I mean no stranger to this stage of the game," Wade told MMA Underground. "This is going to be my fourth semifinal, so it's just improving on last year. Last year, we had a great semifinal. We had a clean semifinal, and I want to take it up a notch from there and just have an absolutely dominant semifinal, finish this fight, put him away in England, in front of his people, and to just march through this tournament on a mission."
"Him" is British featherweight Brendan Loughnane, who also reached the semifinals in 2021, his first regular season with the promotion, before being eliminated by eventual champion Movlid Khaybulaev. With the 2022 playoffs set to begin next month, No. 1 seed Wade (22-7) and No. 4 Loughnane (23-4) are slated to meet on Aug. 20 at Copper Box Arena in London.
While he's excited for the opportunity to stamp his ticket to the 2022 PFL finals, where tournament winners are awarded $1 million, Wade isn't exactly thrilled about the prospect of traveling to his opponent's backyard to do it. A Long Island native, Wade would have much preferred to fight two weeks earlier, when the promotion kicks off the playoffs on Aug. 5 at New York's Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden.
"For me, it's like, 'Who are you riding with?'" Wade said. "You could have easily promoted me at MSG. I'm the No. 1 seed. I have the most points. I've been to the most semifinals. But, you know, it's like for some reason, there's someone that convinced them that he has a ton of pull over there.
"I don't give a sh-t about going over to England. First of all, I don't care where we fight. I'll fight him in the back of a bar, in an alley with nobody watching. I don't care about that. It's just there's obstacles of annoyance – jet lag, time, flights, things like that – that I don't see as super necessary, but this is what was chosen."
Loughnane was a highly touted free agent when he joined the PFL following an impressive performance on Dana White's Contender Series in 2019, after which the UFC president surprised many by not offering the Brit a UFC contract. The PFL quickly brought him to the promotion, fighting first in featured bouts before then taking part in the past two seasons.
Loughnane has fought seven times for the PFL thus far, but Wade hasn't been impressed.
"I think that he's been spoon fed," Wade said. "I mean, look at this, right? You've got a real tough division. You got Lance Palmer, two-time world champion, four-time all-American. You got Bubba Jenkins, NCAA champion, semifinalist. You've got myself, New York State champion, two-time all-American. How come Brendan hasn't ever drawn one of us yet in the regular season? He's like knock-off Conor McGregor. He doesn't have the following. He doesn't have the pizzazz or the talk. He looks kind of like a sickly looking Conor McGregor, and they need to carefully choose who he competes against because he's incompetent in certain positions in the cage.
"For the most part, he cannot be put against an elite grappler because he just doesn't possess those skillsets, so when you see someone getting fed certain opponents to make them look good, like that's not what the sport's about. That's political stuff. Like, he doesn't even realize that he's being used. He thinks it's amazing, but the problem is he's been given a false sense of confidence, so he carries delusion with him because he thinks he's the man, but he's never been faced with any type of challenge here."
Wade gets to put his theory to the test on Aug. 20, and he insists despite his doubts about Loughnane, he's certainly not overlooking him as an opponent. If there's anything Wade has learned in his previous three playoff experiences, it's that every opponent must be respected when the cage door is closed.
Still, Wade is confident he'll be able to prove his point and march on to the finals, where he hopes to claim his first PFL title.
"This is a great matchup for me," Wade said. "I mean, you just look at it on paper, stylistically. I think any of those three guys that I mentioned can beat him any day of the week. Lance can beat him any day of the week. Bubba can beat him any day of the week. I can beat him any day of the week. Movlid can beat him any day of the week.
"In this sport in particular, it's very tough to catch the elite grappler when you're just not an elite grappler. It's much better to go from the grappling and to progress in your striking game, and you could catch some of those guys, but you often see in reverse that that doesn't happen. They may be able to stuff some takedowns, but they don't become, like, super formidable on the ground.
"I just know in my heart of hearts that, yeah, is he tough? He's from England. Definitely a tough dude. Has some decent boxing. Will spin once in a while. Other than that, he's nothing special but a mouth, honestly. He has an accent. Like, 'Oh, wow. Congratulations, bro. You were born in Manchester. Amazing.'"
Check out the full interview in the video above.
This story first published at SI.com/MMA.