Cathal Pendred and Chris Fields: Our TUF Experience – Part 1

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Ahead of the season premiere of The Ultimate Fighter 19, PETER CARROLL spoke to Irish hopefuls, former Cage Warriors world champions Cathal Pendred and Chris Fields about their decision to try out for the show, moving up a weight division and the benefits of having a team mate to share the experience with.

Two of Ireland’s premier mixed martial artists, Cathal Pendred and Chris Fields, will look to go one step further than their fellow countrymen – Joseph Duffy, Paul McVeigh and Paddy Holohan – as they attempt to make it into The Ultimate Fighter 19 house with the pre-recorded series set to be beamed around the world on Thursday, April 17th.

Two former world champions, Pendred having given up his 170lbs Cage Warriors title to pursue the reality television platform, both he and Fields are no strangers to their names being linked to UFC contracts over the years and the Dublin duo explained why they felt the time was right to try-out for the show.

“The first series of TUF was on about the same time as I started to fight, I’ve watched it for a long time and I always have liked the show,” said former Cage Warriors middleweight champion, Fields. “Everything seemed to be popping off over here and Cathal was expected to be signed to the UFC after winning his last fight, so I figured it would be a good time for me to give it a go.”

Linked with moves to both UFC and WSOF after his last bout with UFC veteran Che Mills, Pendred outlined the thinking behind his try out.

“After the Che fight I thought a UFC contract might happen and when it didn’t I just couldn’t see another fight that would prove that I was ready for it. Since I’ve turned pro all I’ve been focused on is climbing the ranks and I really wanted to fight Paul Daley, but when he signed for BAMMA I knew that was off the table.

“The Ultimate Fighter is a proven way of getting a UFC contract. I knew Chris was going to try out so I figured I may as well go with him”, revealed Pendred.

The former European welterweight king shared his thoughts on parting with his championship belt, a physical testament to the hard work and eventual dominance he enjoyed in the Cage Warriors ranks.

“It was a privilege for me to be the Cage Warriors welterweight champion. It’s an achievement I’m very proud of and it definitely gave me some international recognition. To further my career I had to vacate that title, my goal is to be UFC champion and for that to happen I had to drop the belt,” he insisted.

When the cast of the upcoming series was prematurely leaked, the names of the two Irishman appeared prominently when websites forecast the front runners for the TUF title, to the surprise of the Straight Blast Gym fighters. To add to that the two discussed how some of the other fighters knew of their exploits before the try outs.

“Whether people would know me or not didn’t come into my head,” Fields disclosed, “But I was very surprised that people did. A lot of guys keep an eye on their division and fighters who they think might have a chance of being signed by the UFC, so it makes sense in that way. There was definitely some sizing up early on, but that’s too be expected in a room full of fighters I suppose.”

“I really didn’t expect to be recognised, but I suppose it’s a credit to Cage Warriors that I was. The deal they have with MMA Junkie makes their fights accessible worldwide and they have a lot of viewers in the US,” considered Pendred.

“The producers were saying it was one of the best casts they’ve ever had. They had champions like Chris, me and Lymon Good, and there were a lot of other really talented fighters there too. When I was getting my medical done I was surprised that the doctor knew who I was, that was pretty cool.”

One of the main points of interest regarding the Irish pair and their TUF journey was the fact that they would compete at a weight division higher than usual. With Fields moving up to light heavyweight and Pendred jumping up to the 185lbs bracket, the two clarified their reasons for doing so and commented on what weight brackets they hope to compete in after the show.

“I decided I wanted to try out but I didn’t want to have to cut weight, if I had to fight more than once it would really take it out of me, so that’s why I’ve moved up to light heavyweight for the show.

“I know I’m a big middleweight, but I’m not huge for light heavy. I like to try and fight three times a year to justify my career choice to my wife, and I’m used to making 185 now. In saying that, I don’t think I’ve actually fought at middleweight since New Year’s Eve 2012. You have me doubting myself now,” Fields laughed.

“Cathal usually fights at welterweight and he cuts a massive amount of weight. The fact that this series will focus on light-heavyweights and middleweights made up his mind for him really, but I think we’ll both be going back down as soon as the show is finished.”

“I’m a very big guy for welterweight,” said Pendred, a monster weight cutter when making 170lbs, “so when I’m sparring middleweights or light heavyweight I don’t feel at a disadvantage when it comes to strength. That, and the fact that I didn’t want to be going through huge cuts if I made it to the house helped me make that decision.

“I think I have the best chance at winning a UFC title at 170lbs, but if the right fight came along I wouldn’t mind going up to middleweight.”

The TUF experience has seen many fighters fall apart on account of the physical toll on their bodies, lack of home comforts and the inability to withdraw from the intensity of the competition. Both Fields and Pendred highlighted the benefits of having a friend on hand during the process.

“As soon as Cathal started training we hit it off. He was one of the bigger guys and I didn’t have many to train with, so he was already like family before any of this happened. Having him there made everything a lot easier,” Fields acknowledged.

“Having Chris there with me was the biggest advantage any fighter could have for that particular competition. If you’re going to the final you might have to fight three times in six weeks, that’s hard enough, but then there’s the mental aspect.

“To have a friend and training partner is priceless in that situation, otherwise you’re completely withdrawn. There’s no TV, no magazines, you have nothing,” Pendred explained.

With UFC’s Dublin return set for July 19th and the TUF 19 finale penned in for July 6th in Las Vegas, chances of seeing the two former champions compete in the Irish capital have taken a knock. However, with an exception made for TUF 17 fighter Tor Troeng last year when UFC went to his native Sweden, the middleweight was given a fight due to him not making the finals of the series so the possibilities of seeing the pair aren’t completely off the cards.

“If UFC is my biggest dream, fighting in the Octagon in Ireland is certainly a close second,” said Pendred. “To be in the 02 in front of them crazy fans would be insane. I was at UFC 93, it was probably a month before my first fight and I think that planted something in my head that night.”

“I can remember seeing Tom Egan walk out in the 02 and thinking about how cool it would be to do the same thing one day,” Fields added.

To conclude, both men outlined their mind-sets going in to the try outs, with their unwavering self-belief as evident as ever.

“We’re fighters, we have to be confident in everything that we do and this was no different,” said Fields. “We went in having won world titles and that got us a bit of respect but there were a lot of really talented guys in there too, but we went there to win, there’s no doubt about that.”

“I want to win all the time,” exclaimed Pendred. “I didn’t go into this competition to come second. I’m a natural competitor and I had no doubts in my ability ahead of the show.”

Cathal Pendred is hosting a premiere screening of TUF 19 in Buck Whaleys on Leeson street in Dublin on Thursday evening, starting from 6pm, show airs at 8pm. All Welcome!

@PetesyCarroll

Ireland's leading MMA media outlet. Home of Severe MMA Podcast. Producers of 'Notorious,' 'The Fighting Irish' & other MMA docus