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USA Today Sports Media Group
USA Today Sports Media Group
Danny Segura

Jesus Pinedo reflects on wild journey to 2023 PFL Championship final: ‘It’s been beautiful, but intense’

Few expected Jesus Pinedo to punch his ticket into the 2023 PFL playoffs, let alone make it to the featherweight final.

Yet, the Peruvian is just one win away from a $1 million championship prize.

Pinedo returns to the cage at the 2023 PFL Championship in Washington, D.C., to compete in this season’s featherweight final against the man who almost got him out of the race in the first place – Gabriel Braga. The 27-year-old has had a remarkable and unexpected, journey to the title. It’s been a true underdog story, and he’ll look to put a happy ending to it Friday.

“It’s been beautiful, but intense,” Pinedo told MMA Junkie in Spanish, reflecting on his journey through the PFL’s 2023 featherweight season. “Fight after fight and dealing with the injuries that each fight leaves you. Now I’m more known in the media. My country now knows more about me. PFL is now making the rounds in Peru, especially because I’ve reached the final.

“I’m always trying to keep my feet grounded, and I try to keep my emotions in the middle – never too high or too low. I just stay right in the middle, so I can keep focused and keep fighting well. It’s not about just winning one or two fights. I plan on winning the title.”

The road to the final wasn’t an easy one for Pinedo (22-6-1). He lost a split decision against Braga (12-0) in the opening bout of the regular season.

“In the first fight we had in Las Vegas, I thought I won that fight,” Pinedo said. “I always had in my mind that I wanted that rematch. I had no clue it was going to be in the final, but I knew that I was going to fight him one day because to me, I won that fight. I felt I won by a little.

“But anyway, things happen, and I turned the page and I focused on the other rivals and now destiny puts him in front of me once again. It’s going to be a fight for everything: the belt, the $1 million, the rematch. It’s an important fight for me.”

With only two bouts to earn playoff points in the regular season, the loss to the undefeated Braga put Pinedo in a position in which he needed to get a first-round finish in his second fight in order to make the postseason.

On top of that difficult task, Pinedo was matched against 2022 PFL featherweight champion Brendan Loughnane, who had plenty of hype and was coming off a stoppage win over Marlon Moraes to extend his streak to five.

But in shocking fashion, Pinedo wobbled Loughnane with a knee to the head, then stopped him with ground-and-pound in just 94 seconds. He pulled off another big upset in his next bout in August when he put away Bubba Jenkins, the 2021 runner-up the season prior.

“It’s been a crazy, busy year for my career,” Pinedo said. “When I accepted to fight in PFL, I knew that I was going to be fighting very tough people, opponents with world-class ability, fighters like Brendan, Bubba, guys with tons of experience and very good records.

“But this is what I prepared for. I was ready for any rival that they would put in front of me. When I started this tournament, I said I was going to win it and that I was taking that belt back to Peru. That’s what I’ve been doing and what I’ve been showing fight after fight. Now I’m just one step away from achieving it, and I’m 100 percent focused, and 100 percent concentrated on (Friday).”

Throughout this processed, Pinedo has defeated two of the more known names in PFL and headlined two events. But most importantly, Pinedo feels he’s proved he’s among the best featherweights today.

“I’m very happy that I’ve been able to show the level that I have and long with my great team,” Pinedo said. “It’s been so many years of hard work that’s now showing.”

Pinedo is not one to talk. After all, his nickname is “El Mudo,” which translates to “The Mute.” He’s not one to give a fight prediction for his rematch against Braga, but he does assure that he’s a much more different fighter than the one who lost to Braga at the start of the season.

“Braga is fighting a totally different rival from the one he fought the first time,” Pinedo said. “I wasn’t even half of what I am today.”

For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for 2023 PFL Championship.

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