The first episode is obviously quite different from the rest of the episodes in The Ultimate Fighter series due to the fact that everybody fights. Well, nearly everybody!

I think this episode and these fights to get into the house summed up everything that is great about the sport of MMA. This sport is captivating because there are so many ways to win and there are so many ways to lose. It doesn’t matter if you’re a massive favorite or if you spend the entire fight dominating your opponent, one little slip up, one little mistake can cost you the fight. That was certainly on display in these fights to get into the house. There were some great come-from-behind victories, and there were highly established fighters who were beaten by fighters who would be considered new to the game and relatively unknown. There were submissions, a vicious knockout, TKOs and an absolute barn-burner. This is the sport, and this is why we love it!

I suppose the obvious thing to address first is that, for the first time in TUF history, someone got a bye into the house. And that person was me! This is how it happened:

I arrived in Vegas like all the other contestants. I was brought to the Palace Station Hotel & Casino and escorted to my room, where I was to be quarantined for the four days before the fight. So I’m in lockdown in my room, my phone is taken away from me and I’m told I’ve to weigh-in in three days and fight the day after. It’s a completely different situation than you’re used to as a fighter, but cool, let’s do it!

I successfully get myself down to 185 pounds on the day of the weigh-ins. Myself and the rest of the TUF contestants are then taken to the UFC gym to meet UFC President Dana White so he can announce the match-ups for the fights to get into the house. This is a seriously strange experience for any pro fighter. I generally know who I am fighting at least a couple of months before a fight, so finding out who you’re going to fight the day before the fight is nuts! I remember looking around at all the faces of the guys at the weigh-ins and wondering who I could be fighting. I wasn’t even sure which weight class most guys were in, so I was visualizing most guys as a potential opponent.

We got to the gym. Dana gave the usual speech about this being the opportunity of a lifetime, and then he started announcing the match-ups. He called one guy, he’d step up to the mark and then he called the other, they squared off and then this was repeated. Every time Dana opened his mouth, I was waiting for him to call my name. But each time it seemed to be someone else’s.

Finally, he called my name up and I walked up and shook his hand. I stood in front of him and waited for him to call my opponent up. He then began to explain that my original opponent injured himself after slipping when getting out of a salt bath while making weight. He explained further that it is TUF procedure to have two alternates in case something like this happens. However, one of the alternates passed out in the sauna while making weight and the other was injured or missed weight, I can’t remember. All I know was I was told I was getting a bye straight into the house and it was the first time this had ever happened in the history of the show.

Like I said on the show, it was bittersweet. I was ready to fight, but that was taken away from me. At the same time, though, I was through and I wasn’t going to complain!

As for the fights, they were brilliant. I was impressed by all the fighters who won and also some of the fighters who lost. Mike King and Nordine Taleb had an absolute war—it was a great fight. Dana was so impressed that he offered Nordine the opportunity to join the cast of the Australia vs. Canada season of TUF, which was due to begin filming a week or two later (despite airing before our season).

Lyman Good, to me, was the most familiar name in this competition. He is a greatly experienced fighter and was the first-ever Bellator welterweight champion. Everyone, myself included, expected that he would do well in this competition. However, Ian Stephens had a different idea. In the biggest upset of the day, Stephens used his wrestling to dominate Lyman on the mat.

I was also delighted to see my teammate and close friend Chris Fields get into the house. Although it wasn’t the way he would have wanted to win his fight, a win is a win and he moved forward in the competition. It’s also worth noting that Chris has some of the most powerful kicks I’ve ever felt, and it just so happened that his opponent injured the leg Chris kicked numerous times during the fight. It wasn’t the first time in a fight that Chris kicked his opponent’s leg so much that it buckled.

Other highlights of these fights were: Dan Spohn’s first-round knockout, Anton Berzin’s slick jiu-jitsu skills, Hector Urbina showed some great wrestling and took his opportunity beautifully for the guillotine, Pat Walsh showed his serious wrestling credentials transferred well into his MMA game and submitted a high-level jiu-jitsu guy.

Tim Williams and Bojan Velickovic had a brutal war, too. I don’t know if it was the dry Vegas air that exhausted Bojan after the second round or if it was the constant relentless pressure Tim put on him from the opening bell, but Bojan had to be taken to hospital because of exhaustion afterwards. At least he could take comfort in the fact that his hot professional tennis player girlfriend was there to hold his hand.

The episode finishes with the selection of the teams. I wasn’t too concerned with what number pick I would be, especially considering I didn’t fight and the coaches didn’t get to see what I was made of. I ended up on Team B.J. Penn. An added bonus was that Chris was on the same team, too. B.J. picked me to fight first against Hector Urbina. I was delighted to be fighting first, as I was robbed of that in the fights to get into the house. It didn’t matter who I was fighting, I just wanted to get in there and show everyone what I was made of. I wanted to do what I love to do—I wanted to fight.

About The Author

Cathal “The Punisher” Pendred is a 26-year-old martial artist hailing from Dublin, Ireland. He was born in Boston while his father was studying law overseas. Pendred moved to Ireland at age five and took part in judo and taekwondo, before finding rugby. At the age of 19, Pendred turned his attention to MMA. He holds wins over UFC veterans Che Mills, David Bielkheden and Nicholas Musoke and was the Cage Warriors welterweight champion prior to joining the cast of The Ultimate Fighter. Pendred trains alongside current UFC fighter Conor McGregor and fellow TUF 19 competitor Chris Fields at SBG Ireland.

  • Julie Ann Frontroth

    Ive got to say, I am super excited for next weeks episode of TUF. I cant wait to see Pendred kick Urbina’s butt! I just know its going to be an awesome fight!

  • Paul Lynch

    Good luck on the show Cathal…….. though I guess it’s academic now!