Pendred on 170lbs return: “The fans are going to see a beast in the Octagon on October 4”

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Cathal Pendred made his much anticipated UFC debut on July 19 in front of his hometown crowd and banked a come from behind victory that Irish MMA fans will remember forever. Competing a weight division above his usual stomping ground at 170lbs due to his involvement on TUF 19, Pendred believes his stock has risen significantly since that magical ‘Fight of the Night’ win at The O2.

“The reaction that I’ve got from the fight has been great,’ he exclaimed, “It turned a lot of heads. It’s impressed the right guys at UFC like Dana and Lorenzo and I’ve got a lot of positive feedback from people who were watching the fight.

“To get the bonus was massive for me because I busted my balls to get to the UFC. I was severely in debt because I had invested everything I had in training. To be honest, if I hadn’t got the bonus the money from the fight would’ve been used to repay loans and other things that I needed to keep going, I wouldn’t have made any money.”

The Dubliner’s bank account received another jolt after his UFC Dublin opponent, Mike King, tested positive for PEDs in the wake of the event with the promotion then awarding Pendred with King’s $50,000 ‘Fight of the Night’ bonus. The SBG man, who shared a house with King while filming TUF 19, gave his reaction to his American counterpart’s failed test.

“When I first heard that he failed the test I was disappointed. I was shocked, but then I started to think it made sense. He did feel different to what he felt like on the show, he definitely looked bigger. The main thing for me is always getting the win though, and once I came away with that and the bonus I was happy.

“The biggest impact the news of Mike being on steroids had was on how I looked at my own performance. A lot of people have told me that the win is even more impressive because of the circumstances. I’m not a natural middleweight, he’s spent the majority of his career at light heavyweight.

“I was the smaller guy naturally as it was, then when you consider that the guy was not only bigger but he was on steroids too. It does make it a little better.”

Despite the impressive debut, the Dubliner is expecting much more from himself in his sophomore outing as he returns to the welterweight division, a bracket that saw him previously crowned a Cage Warriors world champion.

He said: “I felt fine at middleweight during TUF. Out of all the guys I trained with and fought against I never once felt outmuscled by any of them, even with the light heavyweights. I felt I was well able to match them in the strength department.

“One fight I always think about is the Eddie Gordon one. He’s a big middleweight and I didn’t feel overwhelmed by his power at all. The one thing I did notice was that I didn’t have the advantage that I usually do at welterweight where I’ve never once felt my opponents were anywhere near as strong as me.

“The type of fighter that I am, the way I fight, that strength advantage really helps my game. Although I didn’t feel any weaker than Eddie, I didn’t have that advantage like I usually would, so I always knew that I’d go back down to 170 after TUF. I wouldn’t rule out returning to 185 one day if the right fight came along.

“Mike King was 6’3’’. That’s a really big guy. You can meet guys the same height at welterweight but they tend to be a lot skinnier. He had thick legs, a thick upper body and a big chest and arms. After that fight I was thinking there was no way I’d ever go back to middleweight. After finding out that he was on PEDs I’m open to it again.”

King rained down shots on Pendred in the first round of their bout and many thought the Irishman could have had his chance at victory taken away from him due to the volume and power of his opponent’s assault. However, winning the bout in the second round via rear naked choke, Pendred spoke of how the UFC made sure he was in full working order before he committed to taking on Gasan Umalatov on October 4 in Stockholm.

“I was straight back into the gym after the fight but I took four weeks off full contact sparring just as a precaution,” he explained. “I was brought straight from The O2 to the hospital to get scans on my head just to make sure. I did take a volume of shots to the head that was more than usual. The UFC went through all the precautions just to ensure my safety and I’m 100% now.”

Taking a decision loss in his UFC debut, Umalatov gave his back up to Neil Magny on a number of occasions when they met in February. Having taken is first submission win in July, Pendred is confident that if the Russian gives up his back on October 4 he will be able to close the show in the same fashion he did in Dublin.

“I noticed that Umalatov gives up his back an awful lot from what I’ve seen of him. My submission game has drastically improved over the last two years. I’ve been feeling really strong in that area and it’s something that I feel I haven’t been really able to show.

“At the moment I’m more confident in my submission game than ever and I feel even more confident coming off my first submission win.

“I feel like I’ll be going for them even more now and I know that this guy gives up his back a lot. The rear naked choke is one of the techniques I catch the most in the gym so I’m very confident that if he gives up his back I’ll be able to choke him out,” said Pendred.

There is an excitement about the Dubliner in anticipation of his 170lbs return and he is adamant that fans who have yet to see him at the lower weight will be impressed by the dominance that he aims to display against Umalatov.

“People who haven’t seen me at welterweight before are going to see a completely different animal,” Pendred said. “I feel like there is no one in the welterweight division that can match my strength. In my TUF performances I didn’t have the usual advantages because I had moved up in weight class. The fans are going to see a beast in the Octagon on October 4.”

The former Cage Warriors champion also revealed that he believes it will take no more than one round to seal the victory against Umalatov when they face off in the Ericsson Globe arena.

“I’m confident of a first round finish, I’m going to put this guy away early. I’m not sure whether it’s going to be with strikes or with a submission, either could happen, but I just don’t see this guy being able to put up with the pace, strength and aggression of my attack. I want to put a stamp on this performance and after it everybody will know that I’m a big addition to the UFC’s 170lbs division,” he said.

@PetesyCarroll

Peter Carroll is Severe MMA's lead feature writer. He has been featured in many top publications and some rubbish ones too. He also writes for the Irish Daily Mirror and Vice's Fightland.