Next to UFC Fight Night Dublin headliner Conor McGregor, The Ultimate Fighter Season 19 fighter and McGregor teammate Cathal Pendred may be the Irish fighter most home country fans have been pining to see in the Octagon.
UFC officials on Thursday granted Irish fight fans their wish, announcing Pendred would square up opposite castmate Mike King at the O2 in Dublin on July 19.
McGregor headlines with card in a battle with Diego Brandao.
Pendred (13-2-1) made it to the TUF 19 semifinal round before losing a split decision to Eddie Gordon. He will make his first official start for the UFC in Dublin, fighting in front of a sold-out crown on his home turf.
“It will be an amazing feeling,” said Pendred. “I have been representing Ireland on the international stage of MMA for a few years. We might not wear a green jersey, but we walk to the octagon with the tri-color wrapped around us with pride. We will be representing our nation on the biggest stage in our sport. Ireland didn´t qualify for the World Cup this summer, so July 19th will be our World Cup.”
King (5-0) also lost to Gordon, although his elimination came in the quarterfinal round of the tournament.
Now the two BJ Penn-coached fighters will square off in Dublin.
“I actually got on quite well with Mike when I was on the show,” said Pendred. “We kept in contact afterwards, so I was little bit disappointed when I found out it was him. But that disappointment was completely overshadowed by my excitement of making my UFC debut in my hometown.
“The minute I was told Mike was my opponent, my friendship with him ceased. Until July 19th he is neither a friend to me or even a person; he is just an obstacle standing in the way of my dream. An obstacle that I will get through undoubtedly.”
King had nothing but good things to say about Pendred as well.
“He’s a big, athletic, strong guy that has some holes in his game,” said King, who trains with UFC fighter Stephen Thompson. “His heart is as big as they come, so to beat him you have to stop him.”
UFC Fight Night Dublin is sold out. It will air around the globe on the UFC Fight Pass digital service, but officials on Thursday announced that fight fans in Ireland that were unable to secure a ticket will get to watch the event live on free terrestrial TV on channel 3e, which is part of the popular TV3 network.