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UFC star Cathal Pendred is hungry for another big win... and a belated Christmas dinner

The Boston-born Irishman has returned to his place of birth for the first time in 23 years.

Pendred will aim to extend his undefeated streak to an eleventh bout at UFC Boston on Sunday night.
Pendred will aim to extend his undefeated streak to an eleventh bout at UFC Boston on Sunday night.
Image: Rodrigo Romos/INPHO

PERHAPS IT’S THE weight-cut talking, but one memory stands out more than most for Cathal Pendred when he reflects on his childhood in Boston.

Born to Irish parents in the state capital of Massachusetts in 1987, Cathal and his family headed home to Dublin when he was four-years-old.

Now 27, he returned to Boston this week for the first time since, and once Sunday’s UFC bout against Sean Spencer is out of the way, he’s got one or two places he’d like to visit.

“My parents can’t believe how much I can recall from Boston,” Pendred says. “I remember this one place we lived in that had a balcony, and there was a Greek bakery across the road. Every morning I’d wake up and smell these baklavas that they made and I’d torment my mam about going over to buy me some.”

Every fight camp for guys at Pendred’s level involves plenty of sacrifices, but this one has been particularly tough. The SBG welterweight enjoys the Christmas period and everything that goes with it, and has subsequently always avoided having to compete soon afterwards.

However, when the UFC announced an event in the city of his birth for 18 January, he knew there wouldn’t be any turkey and stuffing on Christmas Day. Returning to Boston to fight for the UFC was an opportunity he couldn’t turn down.

“Christmas is the one time of the year I get to live the life of a normal person. Usually I’m living like a monk… no alcohol, I eat clean, train hard and I rarely see my friends. So I usually use Christmas to catch up with everyone, eat some crap food and drink a few pints of Guinness.”

While his friends and family were enjoying the festivities, Pendred was putting the work in at Straight Blast Gym on the Naas Road, along with team-mates Paddy Holohan and Conor McGregor — who are also in action this weekend at the TD Garden.

Pendred started his UFC career in 2014 with two consecutive wins, but Sunday night’s bout against Sean Spencer is likely to be his biggest challenge yet. The opponents keep getting tougher, a sign that Pendred’s career is on the right path.

“That’s exactly how I want it,” he says. “I had my debut against a fellow debutant and then my next fight was against a guy who had two UFC wins. The next step is a guy who has three wins in the UFC.

“I want each fight being a step up so I’m very happy with this opponent. I don’t over-analyse my opponents but I think I’ll get a good fight out of this guy. I was very disappointed with my last fight.

“I fought a guy who I found it very hard to engage with so I wasn’t able to put in the performance I wanted. I found he was kind of marching away from me the whole time. But with this opponent I’m confident of getting the fight and performance I want.”

Source: The42 Video/YouTube

A 2-0 return from last year has given Pendred a solid foundation facing in to 2015. He knows he’ll need to impress a little more in order to move up the rankings, but he’s confident of doing so: “I’m getting more comfortable in there each time. I feel that everything is fitting into place for that perfect performance I’m looking for.”

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Pendred’s will to win and never-say-die attitude are among his greatest strengths, but he’s also eager to display more of his technical ability as he looks to prove that he’s more than just a tough nut to crack.

“I think that just comes from the way I grew up. I was never really given anything easy when it came to sport. I played a lot of sport but I was never particularly good at football or hurling or anything. So I realised that to get anywhere I’d need to work harder than everyone else for it.

“That has stayed with me and maybe it’s in the back of my mind when things aren’t going my way in a fight. But at the same time I don’t want to be relying on that because I know I have a lot more to my game that I’ll be looking to show.”

With his reputation as one of the most durable fighters in the UFC now well established, does it give Pendred a psychological advantage coming up against an opponent like Spencer, who has stopped just two of his last 13 opponents?

“Maybe it sits in the back of their minds. It’s kind of nice to know that I’ll never count myself out if things go wrong. Sometimes fighters have doubts about themselves if they get stuck in a bad position.

“You see it all the time, fighters getting caught and then covering up and looking for a way out. I know I’ll never do that and it’s nice to know that I have that in the bank. I think I have beaten guys mentally before when they’ve thrown absolutely everything at me.”

Pendred believes he can make his way into the top ten in the UFC’s welterweight rankings before the end of 2015, but he won’t do so without a win over Sean Spencer this Sunday night.

Added to that, the former Cage Warriors champion will need to cope with the pressure and emotion that will come with competing in front of a large UFC crowd with a strong Irish influence in the town in which he was born. But Pendred is prepared.

I’m going to try to not get caught up in that too much because I have to concentrate on the performance. Fighters can end up like a deer in the headlights if they get too hung up on that sort of stuff.

“It’s my first time being back in Boston since I left 23 years ago. The occasion itself is something I’ll reflect on afterwards, but I think it’ll be comparable to my debut at UFC Dublin. It probably will be an emotional experience, yeah.”

Pendred will spend a few days in Boston after the fight, and he’s already got his schedule mapped out.

“I’ll definitely take a trip to that Greek bakery anyway. I looked it up on Google and it’s still there. I also want to find a restaurant or a hotel that will do Christmas dinner for me and my family.”

Hell hath no fury like an Irishman forced to sacrifice his mammy’s Christmas dinner. The first course on the menu, however, is Sean Spencer this Sunday night at UFC Fight Night 59.

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About the author:

Paul Dollery

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