Cathal Pendred: Boston born, Irish raised and finally going home again
Six months before Cathal Pendred was born, his mother and father uprooted their family from a home in Dublin, Ireland for the shores of Massachusetts, where they would settle in the city of Boston.
Pendred’s father, who was a police officer in Ireland, quietly had been tucking away the credit hours and working towards a degree in law. When he finally graduated, he decided to start his law practice across the Atlantic and set up shop in the United States.
Four years later, Pendred’s mom was feeling quite homesick for her family in Ireland. It didn’t take long before the little boy who had only known America was heading across the sea to start an entirely new life in a place he didn’t know at all.
"My dad had his career going, but my mom just missed home like a lot of Irish people do. Her being from a big family back here in Dublin and she just decided she wanted to go home," Pendred told FOX Sports. "If the mother is going home, so are the two kids, so myself and my sister were going with her."
His father stayed behind in Boston, although he rejoined his wife and kids about six months later, but the struggles to adopt to life in Ireland were just beginning for Pendred, who barely had time to say goodbye to Boston before he was moving to Dublin.
When he first arrived in Ireland, Pendred found out rather quickly that children can be merciless when someone sticks out from the other kids in town. Pendred has "this funny Yankee accent" and didn’t sound anything like the kids he started school with, so that made him an immediate target for teasing.
Pendred missed Boston badly in those first few months back in Ireland.
We were treated like royalty there because there’s such a rich Irish tradition and heritage with the people of Boston. When they meet people who are from the motherland, they really embrace them and look after them.
— Cathal Pendred
"I remember being quite devastated at the time," Pendred said. "I was a kid looking forward to starting proper school soon. I had my friends over there. Boston was my world and I got uprooted from there."
As time passed, Pendred started to adapt to his new home in Ireland and before long he really embraced his roots. His American accent faded away and Pendred started sounding more and more like an Irishman.
Still, Boston stuck with Pendred through his formative years and it was a dream to finally go back to the city of his birth. Now he’s returning as a UFC fighter competing on a much talked-about card — he’ll be joined by his teammate Patrick Holohan on the preliminary portion of FOX Sports 1 UFC Fight Night on Sunday — and a win in front of the hometown fans would be as good as anything Hollywood could script.
"I know the reception I’m going to receive," Pendred says. "I remember even when I was a kid the way my family was treated over there because we were Irish.
"We were treated like royalty there because there’s such a rich Irish tradition and heritage with the people of Boston. When they meet people who are from the motherland, they really embrace them and look after them. That’s still instilled in me."
The reception also will be warm for Holohan, a fellow Irishman, and most of all for Conor McGregor, the star of the fight card. Boston has the highest population of Irish people in the United States, and Pendred expects an excellent turnout when the fighters from the Emerald Isle invade the TD Garden Arena.
"It feels like a home card regardless of me being born in Boston. With Conor and Paddy as well, they feel like they’re fighting at home," Pendred said. "There’s a couple of thousand Irish flying over here for the fights, which is amazing. In addition, there’s a lot of people who have immigrated over here in the last few years that are living in Boston. I know there’s people in New York that are going to travel up, coming from Chicago and Philadelphia and then all these Irish-Americans, who are very proud of their Irish heritage, who are going to be coming up."
The celebration will be massive as more than 14,000 fans pile into the arena. Pendred has heard this weekend’s card will be like a second Irish holiday in the United States and that’s something he can’t wait to see.
"A lot of people over there are telling me this is being anticipated more than St. Paddy’s Day," Pendred said. "This is going to be seen as Paddy’s Day this year. It’s going to be amazing."