Bubba Jenkins is back. But is he better than ever?
The former Bellator MMA bruiser was expected to do big things for Professional Fighters League (PFL) after signing with the league-based promotion back in early 2021, and certainly lived up to the billing with quick-fire wins over rough-and-tumble veterans Lance Palmer and Bobby Moffett.
But then a decision loss to Chris Wade in the featherweight playoffs sent the NCAA Division-1 national champion to the sidelines for the remainder of the 2021 tournament. Undaunted, Jenkins roared back to capture three straight wins in the 2022 season, including last August’s submission victory over Ryoji Kudo in the PFL playoffs.
Next stop? A championship final against streaking English sensation Brendan Loughnane.
“I’m excited about the fight. Of all the fights on the card, as a fan and as a fighter and all the things included, I’m most excited about our fight,” Jenkins told reporters during a recent PFL media day. “I’m most excited about our fight because of the fans. You know, you guys get to see a good little rivalry, the British striker versus American wrestler, yada, yada, yada. But the animosity is not as much as you know, me wanting to fight Chris Wade or something like that. But the championship level of mentality in me is saying, ‘nobody in the weight class can beat me.’ I don’t care what organization, so the fact that I have a friendly foe or a frenemy, right now. Um, I’ve made them a frenemy, you know... I want to say all these nasty things, but real talk, he’s a good guy, and I’m gonna try to take his head off, period.”
The PFL 2022 finals take place this Friday night (Nov. 25, 2022) at Hulu Theater from inside Madison Square Garden in New York City. A victory would go a long way in validating the hype that surrounded Jenkins, now 34, when he first burst onto the scene back in late 2011.
More importantly, it will serve as the next chapter in his family’s fighting legacy.
“It means a lot, man. It’s a validation of a culmination of a career being validated in front of, I would say, all my Americans,” Jenkins added. “I was a world champion, but every time I feel like I win a world championship, it’s not an American land or whatnot. So I feel like this is a culmination of that career coming to the forefront in front of all my fans. It’s on the East Coast. I’m an East Coast guy. It’s at the Mecca arena; you can’t get any bigger co-main event. So you can’t have a bigger stage, a platform. It’s gonna mean everything to me, but it’s mostly putting a stamp and validation on the fact that I’m one of the best fighters in the world. Period. I’ve been wanting to say that to grandma for a long time. My grandma is a fighter. And I was talking to her not that long ago, and I was like, ‘grandma, what does it feel like to have one of your grandchildren — she’s got a bunch of grandchildren — one of your grandchildren being like one of the best fighters in the world?’ And she said, ‘Bubba dog, I knew you was a fighter, because I’m the type of fighter I am. I knew one of my children was gonna have some kind of specialness and you just happen to be him.’ And I was just like, ‘Grandma knucks.’ So I’m whooping ass for grandma.”
And a $1 million payout.
The PFL 2022 finals, headlined by the lightweight championship between Kayla Harrison and Larissa Pacheco, air LIVE at 8 p.m. ET on Fri. night via ESPN+ pay-per-view (PPV).