MMA Interview: Cathal Pendred pushing for the title shot
In our final preview of Cage Warriors 49 this weekend we spoke to headliner Cathal “The Punisher” Pendred who fights Bruno Carvalho in the main event tonight.
JOE: Your coach, John Kavanagh, mentioned in an interview that this is the first time you’ve got to train full-time for a fight. How was your training camp in Iceland for this fight?
CP: This training camp has been class and yeah it’s the first time I’ve been able to train full time, doing two times-a-day without anything else goin’ on like work or study.
John came straight out to Iceland after he cornered Chris Fields to his Cage Warriors title in Jordan. John was getting Gunni (Nelson) ready for his UFC debut. I started my camp by helping Gunni finish off his and then Gunni came back to help me and Arni Isaksson, who just took the Cage Contender welterweight title.
It has been amazing being able to train full time.
When I was training for the David Bielkheden fight in June (at Cage Warriors 47) I was studying for my finals (a degree course in Analytical Science). Actually, the week before the fight I sat my finals in DCU. So one Saturday I was sitting an exam in the Helix and then a week later I was walking out to the biggest fight of my career in the same venue, it was a pretty weird feeling.
I’ve never quit anything in my life so there was no way I was going to ditch the degree even though MMA is absolutely what I want to do as my career.”
JOE: What was the reaction in Iceland to Gunni Nelson winning his UFC debut is MMA a big deal in Iceland?
CP: Gunni’s one of the biggest celebrities in Iceland right now. Everybody knows who he is, he’s always in the papers or getting stopped in the street and he’s regularly on TV. Even at the gym he trains at, Moljnir, which is part of the SBGi network, there’s probably been 100 new members join the club in the month after his UFC fight in Nottingham so its great for him and he’s doing great things for MMA and BJJ in Iceland.
JOE: How do you feel Irish MMA stacks up in Europe at the moment?
CP: Ireland’s right up there at the top of the European MMA heap. If you think about it, Cage Warriors is the biggest promotion in Europe and two of its belts are held by Irish guys, Conor McGregor (featherweight) and Chris Fields (middleweight). My fight this weekend is a title eliminator and then you have challengers in other divisions like Owen Roddy and Paddy Holohan and its not just lads from my gym (SBGi) either. There are lots of guys from all over Ireland fighting in Cage Warriors now.
We’ve got that ‘Fighting Irish’ spirit that makes MMA a natural fit for us so I’d expect there’ll be 2 or 3 fighters from Ireland in the UFC in 2013.”
JOE: Last time I met Chris Fields he mentioned that the pair of you had spent some time over in the US earlier this year training at the American Kickboxing Academy. How did you get on and would you say the level of MMA over there is much higher than in Europe?
CP: Training over there was top class.
I’d say the standard of top guys in Europe is not too far off the level I experienced at AKA. In some areas, like wrestling, they might be technically better than us but there’s certainly not a massive gulf in class that some people might think.
I’d be happy to fight any welterweight in the UFC at the moment and obviously I hope to do so in the very near future.”
JOE: Chris also told me a story that he was chatting to a guy on the mats and out of the corner of his eye he caught you running across the floor with Jon Fitch in the air and you slammed him down hard. Is that true? How did that go down with Fitch and his teammates?
CP: Yeah, it’s a true story.
I had been over there the year before and I’d sparred and grappled with Fitch and Koscheck and some of the other UFC fighters so I had an idea where their level was at. To be honest, I felt I was pretty much at that level as well. This year, the first time I sparred with Koscheck he got a little pissed off because I was doing well against him and taking him down.
Jon Fitch is a sound guy. He was the opposite to Koscheck. He was coming back from a long lay-off from injury and told me he was happy I was in his camp for training because I was pushing him hard.
JOE: You mentioned Arni Isaksson earlier, he recently won the Cage Contender welterweight title? That’s your old belt isn’t it?
CP: Yeah that’s my belt. It used to be hanging up in the gym but I came in this week and its gone. I’ve my sights set on the Cage Warriors title at the moment and then hopefully bigger fights after that.
JOE: I know you played rugby on the same Belvedere Senior Cup team as Cian Healy, when and why did you make the jump over to MMA?
CP: I started training MMA when I was playing rugby for the Clontarf (under) 20s. They were very accommodating about giving me time to train MMA as well as training with the 20s. But after a few fights I knew that I was getting more dedicated to MMA so I devoted all my energy to that. I’m an incredibly competitive person and I love the idea of using your body to compete one-on-one with someone else.
JOE: Would you like to give a “shout-out” to anyone?
CP: Yeah, I’d like to say a big thank you to all the lads at the Irish Strength Institute for all their work and help. Everyone, coaches and team-mates, at SBGi and I’ve like to mention two sponsors, VitiCoco and Big Shots Nutrition who give me great support.
JOE: The very best of luck this weekend and hopefully we’ll talk to you again when you’re one step closer to a Cage Warriors title fight against Gael Grimaud.
CP: Thanks a million, talk to you soon.
Cage Warriors 49 happens this Saturday night at St David’s Hall in Cardiff, the three televised prelims – Seery versus Harrison, McDonough versus Gambatesa, Reed versus Caers – will be available worldwide on the Cage Warriors Facebook page from 20:00. Cage Warriors is being recorded by Sky Sports and will be shown next week.
Photo Credits: Cage Warriors