John Kavanagh and Cathal Pendred before Pendred's UFC debut in Dublin in July 2014. Rodrigo Romos/INPHO

'He achieved things only a tiny percentage of the population will ever even get close to'

John Kavanagh pays tribute to Cathal Pendred.

JOHN KAVANAGH HAS described Cathal Pendred as the perfect ambassador for mixed martial arts in Ireland following the 28-year-old’s retirement from the sport this week.

Kavanagh was Pendred’s head coach at Straight Blast Gym in Dublin, overseeing the fighter’s journey from debutant to six-time UFC veteran.

Having accumulated a 4-2 record with MMA’s leading organisation, Pendred is hanging up his gloves and will now focus on business interests. The Boston-born welterweight has signed a franchise agreement with Chopped to open a new outlet of the health food restaurant in Dublin

“Cathal is retiring with a 4-2 record in the UFC and as a former Cage Warriors champion. He achieved things only a tiny percentage of the population will ever even get close to, let alone match,” Kavanagh said.

“But he was honest. That journey to the gym and then putting in the hard rounds, the desire to do that has to be there. Eventually it fades away for everyone and when that time comes, you need to be honest and call it a day.

“That’s exactly what Cathal has done and I’m very proud of him for that. He’ll stay one of my closest friends and I look forward to continuing to train with Cathal and having him as part of the team in a different capacity.”

When asked if Pendred will now take up a regular coaching role at SBG, Kavanagh said: “I certainly hope so. There’s an incredible depth of experience there which he can pass on to our young fighters who are coming up. I’m sure he’ll be busy with the restaurant but it will be great to have him in the gym as often as possible.”

Cathal Pendred with John Kavanagh in between rounds John Kavanagh gives Cathal Pendred advice between rounds during his win over Sean Spencer in January. Emily Harney / INPHO Emily Harney / INPHO / INPHO

Kavanagh admits that he noticed something different about Pendred in the build-up to his clash with Tom Breese last month at UFC Dublin, which ended in a first-round KO defeat for the Irishman.

“If I’m being 100% honest, I did see a bit of a dip in his level in terms of his usual training regime. I know he was doing a lot of boxing outside the gym for that fight but I didn’t see him in the gym as often as I normally would in the lead-up to a fight. I had half-foreseen this coming.”

Kavanagh, who’s currently in the US preparing Conor McGregor for his UFC featherweight title unification bout against Jose Aldo on 12 December, said: “Whenever I’d get kids in the gym saying they wanted to drop out of school to fight in the UFC, it was always good for me to be able to point at Cathal and say, ‘Look at this guy; he got his degree in DCU while training full-time and working towards the UFC’.

“He’s been a great example for me to use with the kids. He proved that if you dedicate yourself and have good time management, there’s no excuses for not being able to finish your education at the same time as training as hard as you need to.”

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