Issue 206

June 2024

The UFC will always be the kingpin of combat, which every young fighter aspires towards when they set out on the road to glory. The lure of the three letters, the lights of Las Vegas, and the sound of Bruce Buffer screaming your name into the heavens of the T-Mobile Arena has always topped the aspirations for young fighters worldwide. However, to get to the big leagues, fighters must work their way up the ranks in the lesser-known promotions and Fighter's Only Paul Browne, details the fighters you need on your social media feed.

Fortunately, some of the larger European fight promotions are developing pathways for fighters to realize their dreams by showcasing their skills, making a living, and testing themselves against world-class opposition. Here’s a look at some of the most exciting European fighters plying their trade outside of the UFC who need to plug into your social media. 



‘Big News’ became the most sought-after free agent in the sport earlier this year when his contract with Cage Warriors ran its course.

The Irishman’s stint fighting in the yellow gloves produced some wonderful memories, with his three-way featherweight title battle with Jordan Vucenic and Morgan Charriere providing tests that can make or break a young prospect. Hughes ultimately got the better of both men and captured the belt, historically seen as a gateway into the UFC.

After waiting almost a year for a call that never came, Hughes relinquished his title and moved up to 155lbs, where he plans to stay going forward. Two first-round knockout wins in his final two fights with the promotion sent his stock through the roof as he entered free agency.

In a surprising turn of events, the PFL captured the Derry man’s signature. The UFC was reluctant to splash the cash, while the PFL dangled the carrot of a place in their 2025 million-dollar tournament, making it an easy decision for Hughes.

“It’s pretty simple…they had the best offer,” said Hughes while speaking to MMA Fighting. “I had offers from every major organization you can think of (UFC included), but the PFL’s offer was just the best.”

Hughes insists that the lure of next year’s lightweight tournament and the $1 million prize were too difficult to turn down. “Probably the main driving factor behind that is the million-dollar tournament,” he said. “To have the opportunity to do that, in my opinion, the ultimate form of competition.”

After a successful first outing under the PFL/Bellator banner in June when he knocked out Bobby King, Hughes is set for more exciting showcase fights in the Bellator cage in the remainder of 2024.



Parnasse is another fighter who found himself exploring free agency this year. The 26-year-old fought under the KSW banner for over six years and collected the featherweight and lightweight titles in the Polish organization.

He even attempted to become champion in a third weight class when he fought Adrian Bartosinski for the welterweight strap last December, but that ultimately proved a step too far for the Frenchman. He bounced back immediately by knocking out Valeriu Mircea in the final fight on his KSW contract in April.

After much speculation about his future and the tantalizing prospect of perhaps seeing him link up with Paul Hughes in the PFL lightweight tournament next year, Parnasse surprised everybody by inking a new multi-fight deal with KSW and will retain the 145 and 155lb belts.

The southpaw brings dynamic striking, a dangerous submission game, and the ability to maintain his power deep into the championship rounds in every fight. Three of his last four finishes have come in the fourth round.



Former Muay Thai world champion Ditcheva has looked sensational throughout her professional MMA career. Eleven of her twelve victories to date have been stoppages, and nine of those have come in the first round.

Flawless technical striking, imposing physicality, and an unmatched killer instinct combine to give us a fighter of elite potential.

In two years competing in the PFL SmartCage, we’ve seen her demolish any opponent unlucky enough to be pitted against her, and this culminated in her stopping Valentina Scatizzi in Dublin last December to win the 2023 PFL Europe Women’s Flyweight Championship (pocketing a cool $100k in the process).

Notably, 2024 has kicked off spectacularly for the Mancunian. First-round finishes over Lisa Mauldin and Chelsea Hackett have seen her earn the No.1 seed in the flyweight playoffs. With fighters of the caliber of Jena Bishop, Taila Santos, and Liz Carmouche in the mix, it seems we’re about to witness Ditcheva take a step up in competition.

LOSENE KEITA (Okatgon) 13-1


‘Black Panther’ is yet another champion on this list who became a free agent this year and looked likely to sign with the UFC. However, the Okatgon featherweight title holder surprised everybody by resigning from the Czech-based promotion after turning down multiple offers from the global leader.

The Belgian, born in Guinea, maintains it has always been his dream to fight in the UFC, but in an interview with MMA Fighting earlier this year, he expressed his belief that he made the right choice by staying where he is.

“Oktagon is like home for me,” he said. Oktagon gave me a lot of chances, and the fans love me, and I’m very popular there. For me, the UFC was my first option, but I’m like, why should I leave my home to go somewhere else?”

“I can still have a lot of experience before going to the UFC,” he continued. “I never say the UFC dream is done, but for me, Oktagon is now my home, and I’m happy there.”

Keita has gone 8-1 under the Oktagon banner, capturing championship titles in two weight classes. His only defeat came during his first featherweight title fight against Mate Sanikidze when he broke his leg a minute into the fight. Less than four months later, he returned to capture the vacant 145lb belt by knocking out Niko Samsonidze.

Having also taken the scalps of stellar names on the European scene, such as Ivan Buchinger, Samuel Bark, and Agy Sardari, it’s easy to see why the UFC would be interested in a fighter of Keita's caliber.

LUKE RILEY (Cage Warriors) 9-0


The 24-year-old Riley, who fights of Next Generation in Liverpool alongside Rock, Molly McCann, and Paddy Pimblett, has been nothing short of electrifying during his run in Cage Warriors to date.

The featherweight debuted in the yellow gloves in 2021 and has quickly become one of the promotion’s most entertaining performers. He has fast hands and fights with reckless abandon that puts bums on seats.

As he ascends the ranks at 145lbs within the promotion, Riley has built an impressive resume and has wins over Jack Eglin, Kallum Parker, and Matheus Malta. His fights against Parker, Alexander Loof, and John De Jesus, in particular, have been highlighted with the Loof bout winning the Cage Warriors ‘Fight of the Year’ award in 2023 and Riley himself winning ‘Fighter of the Year’ to add to the ‘Breakthrough Fighter of the Year’ prize he collected two years earlier.

Reilly is certainly a fighter that draws eyes and commands attention. His fights are rarely dull and he will take damage to dish more out. Having nabbed a spot on the upcoming series of Dana White’s Contender Series, the world is at this young man’s feet.



Cedric is the jewel in the crown of the PFL Europe brand. The Cameroon-born French welterweight is an absolute megastar who has helped the self-styled ‘co-leader’ sell out the massive Accor Arena in Paris on two occasions.

‘Le Meilleur’ is a two-time Glory kickboxing world champion, and his transition into the world of professional MMA has been an undoubted success so far. Six knockout wins and a strong rapport with the French MMA fans mean the veteran is undoubtedly the biggest draw in European mixed martial arts.

It could have all played out so differently. Doumbe was booked to fight Darian Weeks in his UFC debut in Paris in September 2022. Still, the French MMA Federation refused to sanction the bout per the commission’s rules that fighters with less than ten professional fights must not have more than a four-fight differential between them.

Doumbe also failed his pre-fight medical and was released from his UFC contract. After winning two more fights on the French regional scene, he was snapped up by the PFL on a two-year deal. After just nine seconds, he won his debut against Jordan Zebo in front of a ravenous Parisian crowd by head kick knockout, and the watching MMA world knew a star had arrived.

His next fight was the controversial loss to ‘Baki’ Chamsoudinov in front of another packed house in Paris. Doumbe notified referee Marc Goddard of an apparent splinter in his foot during round three, and the referee abruptly stopped the fight, leading to a TKO loss for ‘Le Meilleur.’ He has since returned to winning ways, knocking out Jaleel Willis in the first round of their Bellator Paris co-main event in May of this year.

At 31 years of age, it would seem the PFL/Bellator have a genuine star on their hands to help grow their brand in Europe, and it will be interesting to see how Doumbe performs as he tests himself against a more experienced caliber of opponent going forward.



The journey of Brendan Loughnane has been a long and winding road that has ultimately brought the Mancunian great success and financial reward. A contestant on The Ultimate Fighter: Smashes season in Australia back in 2012, Loughnane made one appearance inside the UFC octagon after the show ended.

He suffered a decision loss to fellow Brit Mike Wilkinson and was cast aside by the UFC. He spent the next few years bouncing around between promotions like BAMMA, FCC, and ACB before finding his way back to the big time when he appeared on Dana White’s Contender Series in 2019. Despite impressively beating Bill Algeo by unanimous decision, Dana White didn’t seem too enamored with Loughnane’s performance and decided against signing him.

What initially seemed like a disaster turned out to be a blessing in disguise for Loughnane. He signed with the PFL shortly afterward and went on an unbeaten run, culminating in winning the featherweight tournament in 2019, pocketing a $1 million paycheck.

Loughnane’s record within the promotion now sits at 10-2, and he has collected wins against Bubba Jenkins, Marlon Moraes, and Pedro Carvalho. His time with the PFL has been an undoubted success, and he will undoubtedly be eyeing the possibility of another $1 million prize before he walks away from the sport.


As the UFC’s business model evolves, we are witnessing a sea change in how ambitious fighters plot their careers in 2024.

The UFC no longer seems to be the only show in town, and they’re undoubtedly happy for this uptick in popularity of MMA in general. Fighters are finding success in other promotions that are often closer to home. Who wins when this is the case? The fighters, the fight game, and the fans because this rising tide lifts all ships.