Caolán Loughran: Opportunity Beckons In Upcoming UFC Fight

Caolán Loughran: Opportunity Beckons In Upcoming UFC Fight

Following his first loss as a professional MMA fighter on his UFC debut in Paris in September, ‘The Don’ Caolán Loughran is looking to bounce back into the win column in his second UFC fight on 30 March 2024 in Atlantic City.

Although Caolán is living the dream by fighting in the UFC, he didn’t have an easy path to where is now and he still wants more.

How Caolán Loughran Took Up MMA

In an interview with The Irish News, Caolán said that as a youth, his main interest was Gaelic Football. He played with Kildress Wolfe Tones GAA club, but serious knee injuries at around 15-16 forced him to stop.

He had attended boxing classes run by the club during the winter months and this gave him an appetite for combat sports. Following the rise of Conor McGregor, Caolán had become very interested in MMA. He decided to give it a go himself and went to a local MMA gym, instantly becoming hooked. Even back then, he believed he would make it to the UFC and become a UFC champion one day.

Amateur MMA Career

Despite the knee injuries persisting into his amateur career, Caolán Loughran won Irish titles and became the number-one ranked amateur in the country. He also represented Ireland in Cage Warriors European tournaments.

While fighting as an amateur in Ireland, Caolán was working full-time. He worked on a building site and then in an office. He also had to travel extensively for training. His local gym was only open for training twice a week, so he also travelled to gyms in Belfast and Dublin. Never one to lack self-confidence, even at this early stage in his career, he was telling people he would fight in the UFC one day.

A turning point came in 2018 for Caolán following a loss to Nathan Fletcher (who will be competing in The Ultimate Fighter Season 32 shortly). The manner of his loss made him realise that his wrestling just wasn’t good enough.

Ali MacLean, an MMA fighter originally from Belfast but now living and training in Liverpool, contacted Caolán and suggested he join him at Colin Heron’s Team Kaobon.

Team Kaobon

Aged 21, Caolán Loughran made the move to Liverpool to train at Team Kaobon. It has the reputation for being one of the best MMA gyms in Europe and has a track record of bringing fighters to the UFC. Fighters from Team Kaobon who have gone on to have illustrious careers at the UFC include Darren Till and Tom Aspinall.

Initially, things were really tough. He had no money and no job. For 10 months, he slept in a small, windowless room at the back of the gym along with a Brazilian guy.

However, he made good use of the time and spent it learning his craft as an MMA fighter. Every day he trained, watched and listened, and he continued to improve.

Caolán credits this period with having strengthened his mental resolve, which has benefited him ever since. He also eventually found a part-time job in a pub and was able to move out of the windowless room at the gym.

Turning Professional

Caolán Loughran turned professional in 2019. He had his first pro fight on 7 September 2019 and within six months, he had three wins on his record. All three wins were by first round stoppage (one by knockout and the other two by submission).

At this stage, everything was looking great for Caolán. He was 23 years old and with the progress he had made, he expected to be in the UFC within two years.

But events outside of his control were about to bring his career to a halt.


Shortly after Caolán’s third straight win as a pro, Covid hit the UK and the country went into lockdown.

The pub he worked at closed and there were no fights. He had no income and even when fight cards were able to be held again, they were constantly being cancelled due to Covid. During the two-year period of lockdowns, Caolán only managed to fight once.

There was, however, a positive side to this period. Team Kaobon’s gym was allowed to remain open, which allowed Caolán to focus on building his skills. A lot of high-level MMA fighters from other gyms that had not been allowed to re-open, were also now training at Team Kaobon. This provided Caolán with the opportunity to train with a much larger pool of high-level fighters. He has credited this period with having brought him up to a much higher skill level and further strengthening him mentally.

Cage Warriors

When the UK removed Covid restrictions, Caolán Loughran signed with Cage Warriors.

This had always been his aim, as he saw Cage Warriors as the best route to the UFC, which many before him had followed. His main inspiration, Conor McGregor, had fought with them before moving to the UFC.

Caolán reeled off three straight wins in Cage Warriors in 2022, all by second round KO/TKO. He was now in line to fight for the Cage Warriors Bantamweight title.

He told Peter Carroll that in January 2023, the PFL offered him big money to sign for them. Loughran turned them down, however, as he was still following his dream of fighting in the UFC. He felt that winning the Cage Warriors title would provide him with the platform to achieve that.

Cage Warriors Bantamweight Title

Caolán Loughran fought for the Cage Warriors Bantamweight title on 6 May 2023. The fight was in Rome and his opponent was the Italian fighter Dylan Hazan. Both fighters went into it with unbeaten records. Loughran was 7-0-0 and Hazan was 9-0-0.

Caolán won the fight and the title with a stunning second round stoppage. He connected with a series of unanswered punches, dropped his opponent, hit him several more times while he was on the canvas and the referee stopped the fight. A few weeks later, he signed a four-fight contract with the UFC.

UFC Debut

Caolán Loughran made his UFC debut on 2 September 2023 at the Accor Arena in Paris. He was due to meet Yanis Ghemmouri, but due to injuries to other fighters on the card, he was given a short-notice change of opponent. His new opponent was the French fighter Taylor Lapilus.

Caolán made a strong impression and showed his character at the ceremonial weigh-ins and face-offs the day before the fight. As he was facing a home-crowd favourite and as he had already told the media that French MMA sucked, he received a frosty welcome from the partisan crowd. Instead of quietly taking it like you might expect from a young debutant, he gave it right back to them. He stood proud, while giving the audience the middle finger several times and making other gestures.

As for the fight itself, Caolán suffered his first defeat as a professional, losing by unaninmous decision. Loughran took the loss badly, but acknowledged that he had fallen short on the night.

Where Is Caolán Loughran Now?

Caolán is due to fight Angel Pacheco in his second UFC fight at Atlantic City on 30 March 2024.

Pacheco has a record of 7-2-0. Four of his wins were by KO/TKO and three were by submission. His two losses were both by decision. He is making his UFC debut. Pacheco’s last fight was in Dana White’s Contender Series 2023. Even though he lost the fight, which was a gruelling three-round war, both Pacheco and his opponent Danny Silva were given UFC contracts.

This is the first time in his professional career that Caolán will be fighting after coming off a loss.

In terms of his mental approach to this fight, he told Breaking News that, “mentality wise, I am probably back to when I was 18 or 19, feeling like I have something to prove. I’m an ultra winner, I hate losing anything.”

As part of his preparation for this fight, he spent the month of January in Phoenix, Arizona, training in Henry Cejudo’s gym. He explained, “if you are not evolving in this game, you are dead really, because the guy is going to be studying your last fight, you have to add to your skill set.”

As well as improving his technical abilities, Caolán believes the experience of training with elite level UFC Bantamweights provided a boost to his confidence.

This is a very big fight for Caolán Loughran’s career and a win would set him on the right track to establish himself in the UFC. His aim is to fight and win three times in 2024. If he does that, he’ll be well on his way to achieving his dreams.

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