Cathal Pendred: UFC card in Ireland’s Croke Park would make history
If there’s any doubt that Ireland is becoming the new hot bed for mixed martial arts, just ask Cathal Pendred, who fought in his home country long before the UFC arrived and makes his second appearance at a card in Dublin this weekend.
Pendred experienced the madness at the last UFC card in Ireland with a shade under 10,000 fans in attendance. While this weekend’s show took several hits in regards to the headline fights, Pendred is already thinking about the next card that’s being rumored for Ireland — a title fight pay-per-view at Croke Park if Conor McGregor gets past Jose Aldo at UFC 194 in December.
"It’s going to happen," Pendred told FOX Sports about the proposed card at Croke Park. "Talking to Conor, he seems to think the UFC is going for it. It makes sense. They have the chance of making history and making a lot of money.
"They just have to figure things out with the curfew there and the time difference, but even if it was shown in the daytime in America, you could put Conor on at 7 o’clock in the morning and people will still get up to watch him."
Croke Park in Dublin is the home for the Gaelic Games in Ireland with seating available to upwards of 80,000 fans in attendance.
If the UFC put on a card there, the show could potentially attract upwards of 90,000 to 100,000 fans because of the arrangement of the Octagon in the center of the pitch along with seating surrounding the fighting arena.
Pendred says there are several reasons the UFC should consider the Croke Park show, not the least of which are the Irish fans that will give the promotion the loudest crowd that’s ever been heard at an MMA event.
"First things first is the fact that it would be full of Irish fans. What the UFC fans have seen in the last year are events with the Irish fans involved and they’ve just become infamous between the Dublin show last year and you have to remember that place only holds 9,000 people and if you were there or watching on TV, it felt like there was 30,000 people there," Pendred said.
"Every Irish fan is worth three fans anywhere else. I don’t care where you’re from — Brazil, Canada, wherever — an Irish fan is worth three fans elsewhere. In July we had Conor’s fight at UFC 189 and I don’t know exactly what the number was, 4,000 or 5,000 fighting Irish in attendance, but you could have sworn there were 20,000. It was crazy."
Taking Pendred’s account of Irish fans into consideration while packing a stadium that holds close to 100,000 people and Croke Park could become the biggest card the UFC has ever promoted.
"So imagine Croke Park, which is an 80,000 seat stadium, one of the biggest stadiums in Europe and it would hold even more with the field. So we’re talking 90,000 spectators. It would sell out, we’d have 90,000 crazy Irish fans there and Irish fans are worth three fans so it would feel like almost 300,000 people there," Pendred teased. "It would be pretty crazy, it would be pretty spectacular and it would be the biggest and best thing the UFC has ever seen."
The growth of the sport in Ireland hasn’t slowed down since McGregor burst on the scene and the UFC landed on the Emerald Isle in 2014.
Unlike the previous shows the UFC did in Ireland, this time around there are plenty of local stars to decorate the card — most notably McGregor, who could make the first defense of his featherweight title on home soil if he beats Aldo in December.
To add fuel to the fire, UFC president Dana White has previously stated that he promised McGregor a fight at home if he wins the featherweight title.
"People are still talking about the event 15 months ago," Pendred said. "The popularity of the sport here is just snowballing and it’s even more popular now than it was back then. There’s more UFC and MMA fans here now and it’s the talk of the town."