My time is now!

I was itching to fight as soon as this match-up was announced. I had come into this competition prepared mentally and physically to fight, and I felt like I was robbed of the opportunity when I received the bye. A lot of energy is built up within a fighter before a fight, and that energy is released come fight time. I never got to release that energy.

Arriving at the TUF house is an exciting moment for everyone that makes it that far. You can see it in the faces of all the guys when they walk through the doors for the very first time. However, it was slightly different for Hector Urbina and me. We were the only two guys who arrived at the house with a fight lined up. While everyone was in awe of being in the house and they were all telling each other’s life stories, I was staying focused on the job at hand.

We arrived at the house with my fight with Hector scheduled for about five days later. Usually when I’m a few days out from a fight I go very within myself. I’m very quiet and I’m very reserved during these few days. So, moving into a house with 14 strangers was a bit weird. I would usually be a very friendly and social person and in that situation I would be getting to know all of these guys I was going to be living with for the next six weeks. However, with the fight coming up, I didn’t. Thankfully, I had Chris Fields, my teammate from back home, with me in the house and on my team.

When you see the fighters walking through the house for the very first time, you might notice I’m the only one not smiling, taking it all in and enjoying the moment. Knowing I was fighting first, I wanted to make sure I got a good bedroom that was away from all the noisy areas like the kitchen. I ran past the two bedrooms which were beside the kitchen and went upstairs and found a huge bedroom at the end of the house. I grabbed a bed and four of my other teammates joined me—Chris Fields, Mike King, Dan Spohn and Josh Clark. We christened our room “The Penthouse” because of its large size and plush en suite.

A big talking point in this episode was the weigh-ins. I know the coaches, the fighters and TUF production staff were very pumped after it. It was intense and there was some emotion in there on Hector’s part. So, I’ll give you the background on that.

I am a very proud Irishman. And at the level I am competing at in MMA, I am representing this small country on the international stage. Representing Ireland is one of my favorite parts of my job. Before Chris and I, no Irish fighter had been in the TUF house. I brought my flag with me to Vegas because MMA is unlike other sports in that you don’t wear a jersey with your country’s colors or flag. In the first few days we were in the house, we had to do a lot of media stuff for Fox—photo shoots and commercials, etc. I brought my flag to all of these media obligations and, with the fight coming up, I think Hector got rubbed up the wrong way.

I was told the day before the weigh-in that Hector had ordered a Mexican flag from the producers. I don’t usually bring my flag to the weigh-in, but as I thought Hector might bring his, I put my flag in Chris’s bag and told him to give it to me if Hector showed up at the scales with his flag. As it turns out, he did. Hector tied his Mexican flag around his head Karate Kid style and we squared off as I stretched my flag out behind my back. My team began to chant “Ole Ole,” a song sung by Irish supporters at any sporting event in which Ireland is being represented. Team Edgar started singing a “Mexico” chant and Hector got visibly emotional. Our noses were pressing for a good 40 seconds, which is a long time in that situation. Our coaches eventually pulled us apart and Hector started shouting something at me in Spanish.

It was clear Hector got very emotional and wound up. I kept myself calm, and I took confidence in that. I like to remain calm when fighting and I like to leave emotion out of the fight. It drains you and it clouds your mind.

I was nice and relaxed fight day, but I was very focused. The fight took place around 3 p.m., which is quite strange. I generally fight at around 10 p.m. at night. When walking out to the Octagon, I found that to be quite strange also. I’m used to walking out to an entrance song and to the noise of a big crowd. However, once I stepped into the Octagon and looked across at my opponent, it felt the same as any other fight.

Round one started off with not much of a feeling-out process. Hector and I both seemed to have that come-forward, pressure style. I backed Hector up to the fence a couple of times using a combination of strikes and clinch work. When I had his back on the fence, I looked to use something I had been working on in training, picking him off with shots while he was cornered off. However, instead of picking him off from a distance, I got in tight and basically turned it into a bit of a brawl from the inside. In doing that, I ended up taking a nice right hook. In taking the shot, I didn’t seem like you would if normally rocked. I didn’t see stars or a flash, so I didn’t think much of it. But then I tried to take a step and I just had zero balance. The shot must have hit me on the ear, because my equilibrium was completely gone.

I went down almost face first into the canvas. My immediate reaction was to protect myself as much as possible and regain my composure. As soon as I was able to do that, my next reaction was to get back to my feet ASAP. I did, and the rest of the round was back and forth, but Hector definitely took the round because of the big shot.

I was in a weird situation after that round, in that I had to win the next round or the fight would be over, since the preliminary fights in TUF are only two rounds. My coaches reminded me of that, and I went out there and used my wrestling to take it to the mat. I found myself having Hector in a front headlock position for quite a while. He was defending the guillotine well using his hands. I was trying to finish the fight with knees to the head while he was standing. Hector played the game of the “three-point rule,” which means by placing his fingers on the mat it was illegal for me to knee his head. I find this rule very pointless, and it essentially prevented me from getting a stoppage in the second round.

After the second, we had won a round apiece and the fight went into a sudden-victory third round. It was all to play for! The third started off similar to the second with me using some nice takedowns to get Hector to the mat. However, I found myself in that front headlock position again for most of the round. Again, Hector started playing the game with the three-point rule. This was so frustrating, as again I found myself in a position where I could have finished the fight. My coaches started to instruct me to lift him so that his hand came off the mat so that I could knee him. It allowed me to knee him legally, but it didn’t have the same effect.

So, the third round finished and I had clearly won the last two rounds and taken the victory. I was disappointed, though, that I was denied the finish because of that stupid rule. I don’t blame Hector for playing the game—I would do the same myself—but I think that rule has to be looked at. Amending that rule will make the sport better.

Anyway, I was delighted with the win, regardless. Hector was a really tough opponent. He tested me, and it’s unfortunate that we met so early in the competition, because I think he would have done really well against the other guys. He will be back, though. He is a top fighter with great experience, skills and fighting spirit.

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.