The great expectations of Cathal Pendred
Prior to his stint on "The Ultimate Fighter" season 19, Cathal Pendred was viewed as one of the top welterweight prospects in the sport while he engaged in a very public campaign to land a contract with the UFC.
Pendred took to Twitter, interviews and any other platform he could find to get the UFC's attention to earn his rightful spot on the roster. To his credit, Pendred definitely deserved a shot after going undefeated for eight consecutive fights while picking up wins over former UFC fighters such as Che Mills and David Bielkheden, as well as a victory over current welterweight Nico Musoke.
When the UFC finally offered Pendred a shot on "The Ultimate Fighter", he jumped at the opportunity despite fighting out of his weight class at 185 pounds. To earn a chance to finally fight in the world-famous Octagon, Pendred was willing to make the sacrifice to get his opportunity in the UFC.
Pendred didn't win the series, although he didn't necessarily have a bad outing, and he did get picked up to compete on the UFC roster after reality show wrapped. In the three fights since the show ended, Pendred has gone 3-0 and amassed a better record than all four finalists who actually competed for "The Ultimate Fighter" title last July.
But the record doesn't tell the real story behind Pendred's performances because he's been anything but dominant in his first trio of fights in the UFC. Pendred was getting demolished in his first fight against fellow "Ultimate Fighter" veteran Mike King before pulling off a miraculous comeback to get the win.
His other two fights have both ended in decisions that many believe should have gone to his opponents. Pendred could easily be 1-2 going into his fight this weekend at UFC 188 with his job on the line.
The Irish welterweight would love to disagree with that notion, but even he can admit that his performances thus far in the UFC have been underwhelming to say the least.
"I don't think I've showed at all the best of my abilities in my three fights in the UFC," Pendred told FOX Sports. "I really don't feel like I've showed up yet as good as I can. It's somewhat disappointing, but it's also kind of exciting to think I've gone 3-0 in the UFC but haven't even come close to doing my best yet. I'm working on it."
His last fight against Sean Spencer may have been the hardest pill for Pendred to swallow because he knows that was an off night and while he still believes deep down that he won, he also knows he did so by the loosest definition of the word.
"There was no one that had greater expectations of me than I did going into my last fight. I thoroughly believed I was a lot better than my opponent and believed I was going to make a massive statement. Immediately after the fight I was pretty disappointed in myself. I felt I had done enough to win, but that's all I had done," Pendred said. "I didn't show the level of fighter I am. I was deeply disappointed."
If that wasn't enough, Pendred then had to hear from the peanut gallery, who all weighed in by letting him know very loudly that they believe he lost to Spencer. As much as Pendred wanted to have thick skin and pretend it didn't bother him, there's no way he couldn't feel the sting of criticism from fans and media alike.
"Afterwards, I got all the criticisms from people saying he should have won the fight and that just kind of rubbed a bit of salt in the wounds," Pendred said.
Pendred is the first person to recognize the night and day performances he had before coming to the UFC versus his last three fights. A step up in competition would normally be the easiest reason as to why Pendred stopped dominating opponents and instead ekes out close decisions, but he was facing and beating former UFC fighters before ever getting his own chance with the promotion.
To help him understand why he's been so lackluster lately, Pendred called on a sports psychologist so they could work together and find out why he's been winning but still falling well short of his own expectations.
"I do a lot of work with a sports psychologist and it's something we've been trying to figure out. Why am I going out there and underperforming?" Pendred said. "We have a few theories but the main focus for June 13 in Mexico is just going in there and just being at my best. I'm not worried about where I am or who I'm fighting or what's on the line, I'm just worried about showing up with the best of my ability."
In preparation to face Augusto Montano this weekend at UFC 188, Pendred and his psychologist worked together again to see if they could find the cause why he was no longer able to pull the trigger during his fights.
As it turns out, Pendred was walking into his last three bouts with no ammo in the chamber. As strange as it sounds, Pendred was so nervous about being nervious in his first couple of UFC bouts that he psyched himself out of the fights and walked into the Octagon like he just took too many Ambien and couldn't wake up even when someone was trying to punch him in the face.
The hope is with the work he's done in the last few months to get past that mental hurdle that the real Cathal Pendred will finally show up at UFC 188.
"I'm just trying to settle the score with people now and show them the real Cathal Pendred," Pendred said. "A lot of my focus going into my first couple of UFC fights was I heard a lot of people talk about the UFC jitters and I just didn't want to make that an issue so I made sure I was very relaxed going into the fights, but I think I may have gone to the extreme and gone out there too relaxed. I wasn't amped up for the fight as much as I should have been.
"I'm taking UFC out of the equation now. This is a fight. This is my 20th professional fight. I'm going to go out there and bring the fight and just be the best Cathal Pendred I can be."