Ireland’s Caolan Loughran (3-0) is an undefeated bantamweight prospect with a flawless 100% finishing rate. A product out of Team Kaobon Liverpool, Loughran trains with the likes of the UFC’s Tom Aspinall (8-2), Mike Grundy (12-2), and Darren Till (18-3-1).
Ireland has a lot of red-hot major prospects, and although Loughran is quite underrated now, in the next few years, he believes that’s destined to change.
Loughran grew up in Tyrone, Ireland. Although he would move later in life, Loughran started his journey in combat sports while residing in Tyrone. He trained boxing in the winter between football (soccer) seasons when he was around 10 and 11 years old, but it never stuck with the young Loughran.
Loughran also dabbled in some Gaelic Football, an Irish team sport with roots dating back to the late 1800s. He played until the age of 16, but, afflicted with continuous bad injuries, Loughran grew tired of the constant rehabbing.
Then Loughran found another sport to pursue, and this time, it stuck.
“I went and tried MMA and it came very naturally,” Loughran told MMA-Prospects. “I started picking it up fast! The grappling, especially, is what got me so interested!
“I [remember] coming home from my first session around 11-years-old at night – literally with one session – saying ‘I’m gonna be in the UFC and this is what I’m gonna do for the rest of my life,'” laughed Loughran.
To pursue his MMA career further, Loughran moved to Liverpool, England, a hotbed of martial arts talent. Though Loughran now trains away from his native Ireland, the bantamweight routinely returns to the Emerland Isle after his in-cage successes to celebrate with friends and family.
Back in Ireland, there are two promotional titles young fighters aspire to capture. In the North, it’s the Clan Wars title, and in the South, it’s the Cage Legacy title.
Loughran didn’t discriminate. The Irishman has won both titles, winning both in the span of just a month. When all was said and done, he started training at Kaobon. His first fight was for Almighty Fighting Championship and, as one might expect, Loughran won its title, as well. The Almighty FC title win marked Loughran’s third amateur championship.
It wasn’t always smooth sailing, though.
Although Loughran had a successful amateur career, his record of 8-2 reflects two learning experiences.
“Honestly, I couldn’t give a shite about winning them fights or any amateur title!” Loughran explained. “The best thing about my amateur career was a loss a few years ago, by far! I think I’ve gone on like a five-fight winning streak since then. All wins, all finishes, and four in the first round. I’m now an undefeated pro, but nearly fell on a loss; I learned a lot there.
“But the belts look cool and help get an extra few Insta[gram] likes when ye call yourself the ‘Champ Champ Champ,’ Other than that don’t matter a fuck!” Loughran laughed.
“I learned a lot as an amateur. I won a lot of fights and made a lot of mistakes. As I say, the one that sticks out is not selling out the Ulster Hall or being in the BBC winning any belts or anything like that! I lost to a guy [undefeated Cage Warriors prospect] Nathan Fletcher (3-0) a few years ago and I learned a lot in that fight. My wrestling was not good enough and something had to change! I learned about the importance of correct preparation, both mental and physical.
“I just learned a lot, and maybe above [all], learning how much I fucking hate to lose! Not to take anything away from Nathan; that night he definitely deserved to win hands down! He was able to score takedowns and win. I honestly believe if I fought him now I’d clean him in the first round! More so, I’d love to have him shoot at my legs and show he couldn’t take me down and definitely not hold me down. I think, down the line, we’re gonna fight.”
When Loughran moved to Liverpool, England, it was to pursue his MMA career, which has manifested in his time training at Kaobon.
“I honestly would not want to train with any other gym in the world,” Loughran said. “Fuck me, we train hard! I watch these fighters on Instagram, and I don’t care what gym you train at and how hard you think you’re training because you are not training as hard as me or the guys you see on TV on the Kaobon mats!”
Loughran says his improvements have been so significant that he even feels his old fights – littered with title wins and finishes – are embarrassments.
“I watch my old fights and near wish they were [erased] off YouTube, [and in] most of them, I finish the guys. The level of scrambling in two years… I don’t think many gyms in the UK you would improve in five! Not even slagging anyone, just the quality of coaching and the energy on the mat, training alongside Till, Grundy, and Tom; that is class! The energy is class on the mat and it drives me on; it’s almost contagious.”
For Loughran, the gym is a family affair.
“Ali [MacLean (15-8-1)], one of my teammates and coaches, messaged me around two years ago to join the team and I owe him a lot for that. My younger brother is also over here now full time. I’m not ready yet, but a few more years of training like a man possessed and listening to my coach Colin Heron, and I’m going to the UFC.
“And when I get there, I will fucking smash every bantamweight in my way!”
Loughran’s UFC aspirations have led him to idolize one of the promotion’s most storied stars, undefeated lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov (28-0).
“Obviously there are big names in my gym that I look up to, but my favorite fighter is Khabib. I’m no one’s fanboy except Khabib,” Loughran joked. “I watch every interview, training clip, etc. I probably look more at fighters’ mindsets than anything because I don’t prefer grapplers to strikers style-wise. I love it all but Khabib I feel is in a league of his own. His ability to break fighters is so sick! That’s actually something I’m becoming obsessed with, is breaking people with pressure, striking, wrestling top pressure and just keep going going going until he gets tired and breaks.”
The Nurmagomedov-influenced style is should have future Loughran opponents wary.
“Just, no one I’m fighting right now is making out of the first round to even get fucking tired but soon someone will!” promised Loughran. “I also respect the fact that someone like Khabib can make so much money, get fame, etc. and still be so driven to train and compete. He’s the main man I think.”
But Loughran’s style is very much his own.
“For anyone that hasn’t watched me, good: I’m much improved,” Loughran explained. “I come out with a smile on my face and always look for the finish! I love it! I try the odd spin and smash (expletives’) heads through the floor when it hits the floor! If someone would strap on a set and fight me, that is,” referencing the recent withdrawal of an opponent whom Loughran was scheduled to fight last weekend.
In his path to the UFC, Caolan Loughran believes an opportunity in Cage Warriors could be a clear next step.
Over the years, Cage Warriors has been the number one promotion for fighters emerging from the United Kingdom and Ireland. It’s been a promotion for years that has produced fighters who go on to some of the biggest organizations in the sport, with the UFC in particular sampling the Cage Warriors roster. Alone, Cage Warriors has sent 96 fighters to the UFC.
Loughran, mindful of Fletcher’s presence in the promotion, would join the promotion’s roster on his coach’s advice.
” Yeah, well, that Nathan Fletcher (expletive) is in Cage Warriors so that fight interests me. I would definitely sign with Cage Warriors if my coach Colin allowed it. I look at the Cage Warriors bantamweight champion [undefeated Jack Cartwright (8-0)] – the kid with the ponytail – I rate him but know 100% I’d beat him. But even if I did [sign with Cage Warriors], I’d say he’ll be in the UFC before I got anywhere near him. I think it would be cool to win their belt, but my coach Colin has taken more people to the UFC than anyone else from this part of the world, so I’ll just listen to him and keep the head down!
As for Bellator, the U.S.’s second-biggest promotion?
“Bellator can suck my balls!”
Loughran knows his time is not now, but under the tutelage of the coaches and alongside the high-level training stable at Kaobon, the Irishman believes his time is coming.
“I’m going to the UFC,” Loughran vowed. “Actually both me and my younger brother Tiarnan (4-0 Am.) are. We will make a bit of history and be the first Irish brothers in the UFC.
“I’m not good enough yet though. The guys at the bottom, I’d smoke! But the top guys would probably take me. And it’s important to be honest with yourself, I feel. I’m in the right place in Kaobon, and I keep the head down, outworking everyone, and I’ll get there in good time. If the level it takes to become a bantamweight world champion is TJ fucking Dillashaw or someone like that, in the next 10, 11, or 12 years, I’ll be Ireland’s second world champion!”
“I have no doubt, in that time, I can be number one!”