'I was willing to do anything to get that UFC contract' - Pendred set for reality TV show

The highly-regarded MMA fighter has been named as one of the contestants on ‘The Ultimate Fighter’, which will air in April.

cathal-pendred Irish MMA fighter Cathal Pendred. YouTube screengrab YouTube screengrab

FOR SOME TIME now, Cathal Pendred has been banging on the UFC’s door — and getting no answer.

Since clinching the Cage Warriors welterweight title 12 months ago, the Dubliner has been widely-regarded as the best fighter in his division yet to be signed to MMA’s premier promotion.

While SBG team-mate Conor McGregor was making waves during his first two appearances in the Octagon, Pendred claimed victory over Che Mills last summer but the big break which was expected to follow suit never materialised.

His management company was in contact with the UFC but there was simply no room in an already enormous division. Hugely ambitious and never happy unless he progressing, the 26-year-old opted to take a different approach in a bid to realise his dream.

“I’ve been knocking on the door for the last couple of years,” he told “I was regarded as the number one welterweight in Europe who hasn’t been signed to the UFC so I always felt like it was just a matter of time.

“There just wasn’t the opportunity to get signed. The welterweight division is the most packed division. I think there are around 80 guys whereas there are only about 40 in all the other divisions.

“There were no contracts being handed out and I had beaten everyone around Europe in my weight. There were no fights that I saw as a step forward in my career and I felt like I was in a bit of a lull. I always want to be moving forward in my career.

“This opportunity for The Ultimate Fighter came up and it was at middleweight, which is a weight class above what I usually fight at. But the UFC is where I want to be and I was willing to do anything to get that contract that I wanted.”

The Ultimate Fighter / YouTube

In August, he travelled to Indianapolis to tryout for ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ (TUF), a reality TV show which offers fighters the chance of a UFC contract. It has all been hush-hush since then as contestants are contractually prohibited from talking about the show before it is aired on BT Sport on 16 April.

This week, however, it was officially announced that Pendred, alongside compatriot Chris Fields, would be among the last-32 competitors.

And he admits that a weight has been lifted off his shoulders since the news broke:

To be honest it has been a little bit frustrating. I was getting asked a lot of questions but I just had to keep quiet about it. It’s a relief now that it’s out and I can at least tell people that I made it as far as the fights to get into the house.

“All I can say is that I made it to the final 32 where you fight to get into the house. I can’t say too much after that.”

In the first episode, 32 will be halved as eight middleweights and eight light heavyweights progress to the TUF house where they will coached by former UFC champions Frankie Edgar and BJ Penn.

On being trained by his heroes and meeting the other fighters, he says: “It has been tipped as the highest standard of TUF since the first season, which was the one with Forrest Griffin, Diego Sanchez, Josh Koscheck and the likes. It was a really high standard when you compare it to other ones.

“There was Lyman Good who was Bellator champion and other various big names from around the circuit.

“We had a lot of high level guys but most fighters are like-minded in that they are hard-working people who have the same dream so I got on with most of them within the show.

“But I wasn’t there to make friends, I was there to get a UFC contract.

“Both BJ and Frankie are two guys I have looked up to since I got into the sport. The first UFC I ever went to was UFC 80 in Newcastle and BJ was headlining that fighting for the lightweight title so it was a little bit surreal. To meet them and train under them was amazing.”

“When I started watching MMA, TUF had just come on the scene. It helped me realise what exactly the sport was. You got to see behind the scenes and the training involved. That helped captivate me even more.

“I didn’t even train MMA back then. I was just a fan of the sport and was watching these guys. I thought ‘man, that’s a tough thing to do’. I always like to do anything that I think looks tough because that’s the mentality I have.”

TUF Irish hopefuls Fields (left) and Pendred. UFC UFC

Pendred, previously a welterweight, has moved up a division to middleweight to take part but insists it didn’t cause too much trouble for him.

“It hasn’t been difficult at all. I’m quite a big welterweight and would’ve had to cut to make the weight even for middleweight so it wasn’t a problem at all.

“I’m just as strong or as big as any middleweight.”

Filming in the house and Las Vegas finished last December meaning the two finalists from each division have already been chosen to meet in the finale — a UFC event headlined by coaches Edgar and Penn in the Mandalay Bay Events Center on 6 July.

Two weeks later, the UFC comes to Ireland for a second time meaning success in TUF would almost certainly rule Pendred and Fields out of an appearance in Dublin’s O2 Arena on 19 July.

Understandably, Pendred is unable to give anything away right now.

I can’t say much right now because I’m under strict rules. All I will say is that fighting in the UFC is my dream and part of that dream was to fight in Dublin.

“I went to the Dublin show in 2009 and the second I saw that I thought I want to do it 100%. It has been one of my goals for a long time and I’ll do whatever needs to be done to do it.

“We’ll just have to wait and see.”

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