Professional sport can be a cruel game in which to get your break. Regardless of talent, funding is a necessity for the continued development of athletes and sport in Ireland. For DCU graduate Cathal Pendred, his journey to the Ultimate Fighting Championship didn’t come without a struggle.
Despite the surge in popularity of mixed martial arts in Ireland, and the success stories of fighters like Cathal Pendred, Paddy Holohan and particularly Conor McGregor – the Irish Sports Council still refuses to categorise it as a sport.
MMA fighter Cathal Pendred turned professional while he was studying at DCU. He was unable to receive a scholarship because the sports council doesn’t recognise it as a sport and was forced to work part-time. He admitted it was difficult to balance everything.
Reflecting back on the lack of funding, the analytical science graduate told The College View that: “It was extremely difficult, and I found it very problematic. Especially because I was competing professionally when I was in DCU.
“I remember I approached DCU looking for help, seeing if I could get sponsorship just to make things a bit easier for me because I was training full time, and in a full-time course. I also had a part-time job as well, so I found it extremely difficult for the last years of my course. I had no social life, I didn’t see my friends,” he added.
The 28-year-old retired from the sport last October after falling to English star Tom Breese, and he acknowledged that the fact he’d been contemplating retirement for a few months leading up to the fight may have had an impact on his performance.
He said that, “it definitely correlated when I did stop enjoying it. I noticed training became a chore and I wasn’t improving as much, I just wasn’t it as much, my heart wasn’t it in it as much, and fighting is the last thing you should be doing when that’s the case.”
Despite a relatively short career in the UFC, Pendred will be one of those who go down in Irish sporting history for laying the foundations for what it takes to make it in the sport. Outside of the United States, the sport is still maturing and is only now beginning to reach a mainstream audience.
At the time when Pendred was determined to pursue a career in MMA, he had no footsteps in which to follow. Unlike sports like football and rugby where you can look to the likes of Roy Keane and Brian O’Driscoll for inspiration –nhe admitted succeeding in a sport where there was no platform for success in Ireland was his greatest achievement.
“I think the proudest thing out of it all is the fact that I did something that hadn’t really been done before. I had a dream to go somewhere, to do something that at the time I chose to pursue it, nobody had done before.”
“Myself, Conor [McGregor], Paddy [Holohan], Ais [Aisling Daly], we all had this dream but there was nobody we could look to and aspire to say that’s how you do it, so that’s the footsteps we need to follow. Now kids can turn up at an MMA gym and decide they want to become a UFC fighter, they have people to look at, they have a path to look at and say that’s the way I need to go,” he added.
Despite never using his science degree, he spoke of its importance and how it gave him an advantage over other fighters – but he doesn’t think he will ever use the degree to pursue a career in the field.
“Science is always something that I’ve been interested in, and having a great understanding of it has given me an advantage in things such as dieting. That is something I had to be very knowledgeable about being a fighter and when it comes to cutting weight etc. I had an even better understanding than most in my position because I had studied science and had a deeper knowledge of what dieticians were talking about to me,” he said
Since retiring from the sport, Pendred has been jabbing at other areas as he looks to the future. He will open his own branch of the healthy fast-food outlet Chopped, later in the year – and he spoke of his desire to do some media work.
“I’ve been doing a bit of writing since I retired, it was something I’d been doing while I was fighting, but I’m still doing it – I’m actually doing stuff as we speak now with the impending Conor McGregor fight – I’m doing a lot of stuff on that. He even wants to take to big screen and try his hand at acting.
“In terms of the acting, I’ve been busy at that – I’ve taken some classes, I’ve actually picked up a few roles which I’m really looking forward to.”
He may not have reached the heights of his teammate Conor McGregor, but then again, who has? He will go down in history however, and his path is there to be followed by the next generation of Irish MMA fighters.
Image credit: Sportsfile