Cathal Pendred and Chris Fields: Our TUF Experience – Part 2

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After banking victories in their first tests in The Ultimate Fighter, PETER CARROLL spoke to SBG duo Cathal Pendred and Chris Fields about the lead up to their first fights, byes, leg kicks, injuries, BJ Penn and watching each other compete inside the famous Octagon.

A fortnight ago, many Irish fans witnessed history as Cathal Pendred and Chris Fields became the first Irish duo to make it through The Ultimate Fighter try-outs and into the reality platform’s infamous household. However, it would only be one of the former world champions that would have to fight for their place with Pendred becoming the first fighter in the history of the show to be given a bye into the house.

“I didn’t know until after the weigh in,” explained Pendred. “It was less than 24 hours out from the initial fights to get into the house and I was told one of the guys fainted in the sauna trying to make weight. That didn’t worry me too much because I knew that they had two alternates for each division, but it turned out that both of those guys got injured too.

“I don’t know if they knew they were going to fight me, but I should probably say that they did,” he joked. “So yeah, they were running scared.”

If there had have been a choice between which one of the Dubliners took to the cage that day the ball would’ve most certainly dropped to Pendred due to Chris Fields sustaining an injury two days before he left for the try-outs.

“It happened two days before we left for the try-outs when I was hitting some pads in the city centre,” revealed Fields. “Whatever way I moved after it, around the middle of my back where my ribs are felt like it popped. I couldn’t move it at all and I called my physio Shay Caffrey, he was on the way to a family holiday but he turned around to see me like the legend that he is.

“After I had seen Shay I went to the doctor and he gave me some injections and some valium. Even during the fight I was on valium, I was given permission to take it. Everybody thought I was a stone cold killer because I was asleep while everyone else was warming up, Cathal had to wake me up. Usually before a fight I’m getting hyped up so that was pretty funny.

“Even though I had that in my system, I didn’t feel any different while I was fighting. Even if I did, that right hand certainly woke me up. I was happy that I was able to keep going after it and I felt like I did quite well from there on out.”

With time being called on the fight when Stansbury claimed to have sustained a knee injury after executing a takedown on Fields, many believed that the Irishman was lucky to have had his hand raised despite peppering the affected area of the American numerous times during the contest. However, both Pendred and Fields believe had the fight gone longer the odds were firmly stacked in favour of the former Cage Warriors middleweight champion.

“When I see my team mates fight I’m a lot more nervous than when I compete because I can just completely focus on my own game plan,” Pendred reflected. “I probably let the action get the better of me when Chris fought Stansbury, he was a really aggressive fighter.

“I’ve watched that fight five times and the more I watch it, the more respect I have for Chris. He was getting hit with big shots and he stayed calm and started to connect with combinations and leg kicks. One thing I will say is that I think Chris might have respected the guy too much, but it worked out in the end.

“I think they were saying he was lucky because the American guys don’t really know much about Chris. I’m not saying this because we’re on the same team or because we’re friends, but Chris has got some of the hardest leg kicks in MMA. When you look at what happened there, Stansbury’s knee isn’t even in an awkward position when he lands that takedown, the cumulative damage of them kicks took their toll.

“Conor was there watching the fights with us and at this stage he’s an expert on knee injuries. Conor’s injury is one of the worst ones you can get and he still managed to fight on for a round and a half with his. He didn’t have a clue what happened with Stansbury’s knee, I think he just gave up.

“He exerted himself too much trying to put Chris away early on and it just looked like he had enough. Chris faked a low shot and Stansbury took time to gather himself, it didn’t even connect properly.

“Chris has been known to stop opponents with leg kicks in Europe. He stopped Mario Stapel with them, Pavel Kusch couldn’t walk after their Cage Warriors title fight and Norman Paraisy limped around the cage for two rounds in their fight. He definitely had a big part in stopping Stansbury.”

Fields also shared his thoughts on Stansbury’s injury and the treatment he received that corrected his own affliction.

“I definitely think he tired himself out trying to put me away earlier on. What you would’ve seen on the broadcast was the fight being paused because of an alleged low blow, but whatever about the rest of my game, my kicking game is quite sound and I didn’t think I hit him low.

“What you didn’t see was that he took three minutes to recover from a shot that didn’t happen, then he came out throwing big haymakers again but I could see he was fading drastically. I’m confident I would’ve finished him in the second had he continued.

“Another guy from the house Daniel Spohn had actually fought Josh twice, he lost to him in the first round of one of them and beat him in the other fight in the second round. He said the difference between him in the first and second round of their fight was night and day. You can’t sprint for ten minutes, you know?”

“Straight after the fight the UFC had me see a chiropractor and he just popped my rib straight back in, it was uncomfortable but it was such a relief when it went back in. I fight with injuries 99% time anyway, but that one was particularly bad because it affected my breathing, I was happy to get it sorted.”

After the initial fights to get into the house, teams were selected by legendary rivals BJ Penn and Frankie Edgar. The Dublin pair commented on what teams they initially wanted to be on and the possibility of being on different teams.

“I had it in my head that I’d be the first pick and I suppose when I realised I wouldn’t be fighting I began to accept it wouldn’t go that way,” admitted Pendred. “When I saw the coaches were BJ and Frankie I didn’t mind what team I would end up on, I’m a big fan of the two guys and I felt could relate to both of them so it didn’t matter.

“Being on BJ’s team I got to train with BJJ world champion Buchecha, the legendary Mark Coleman and Andre Pederneiras, head coach of Jose Aldo and Renan Barao at Nova União. His knowledge of the sport is unbelievable and I would compare him a lot to John Kavanagh, that’s probably the biggest compliment that I can give him.”

“Because BJ has previously worked with Gunni and he’s been over in our gym doing seminars in the past, I kind of wanted to be on his team,” said Fields. “I don’t think John Kavanagh would mind me telling you that he’s one of his favourite fighters too, but don’t get me wrong, Frankie is no booby prize.

“We never spoke about the possibility of not being on the same team as each other, it just never came up. But mark my words, I would’ve told my team all of Cathal’s secrets if he was on the opposite team,” he laughed.

“Seriously though, it was a lot handier being on the same team. I’m sure we would’ve gotten over it if we weren’t, but even hanging out would’ve been awkward if we were on different teams because all the guys would be bitching about us talking and stuff.”

Pendred described his initial feelings on seeing his first opponent Hector Urbina competing to get into the house and how he came to be picked to fight first for Team Penn.

“I was really impressed by what I saw of Urbina, his wrestling looked really good and he was strong in scrambles. He had one opportunity to lock in a guillotine in his first fight and he took it, I think it was the quickest finish in the middleweight division that day.

“I wasn’t picking out who I would prefer to fight or anything like that, I was just dying to get in there. I wanted to be the first fight but I didn’t have any time to tell BJ that. We didn’t get to have a team meeting or anything, I was just lucky to get picked.”

A particularly intense stare down preceded the hard fought three rounds, something that Pendred felt had no impact on him but definitely affected Urbina before the action got under way.

“I didn’t care one bit about him getting in my face. All I was thinking was, ‘this is going to look cool on TV’. When we locked horns and we were nose to nose, I was completely switched off but I knew it meant something to Hector. I was just zoned out standing there like a statue.”

Pendred, competing at the unfamiliar weight of 185lbs, broke down his performance and explained why he has mixed feelings when he looks back on the bout.

“It was a frustrating performance for me,” he confessed. “I’m delighted with it in some ways and disappointed in others. I wanted to display my stand up game, something I’ve been working on is piling pressure on my opponent, getting their backs up against the fence and then teeing off.

“One of the problems I’ve been having with that is when I have them up against the cage I tend to get too close, it turns into Rock’Em Sock’Em Robots but I worked on that a lot with BJ. It was all working out well for me, but I kind of got caught up in the heat of the moment with Hector and the two of us were just standing in front of each other swinging.

“It was a left hook that caught me, a lot of people are saying that it was a right, but he threw a left hook and it connected right on my ear. I’ve been rocked in fights before and I’d usually see stars or a flash, but this time I didn’t see anything and as soon as I tried to take a step forward I had completely lost my equilibrium.

“I just had to compose myself and I was happy that I was able to show my toughness to the American audiences, people know that I’m tough from watching me on the European scene.

“It was a weird situation in the second round because I had to win it. In TUF, if you get beaten in the first two rounds the fight is over so when I had Hector in the front headlock position I wanted to go for a guillotine but if I didn’t finish him he would’ve ended up on top and that could have impacted the judges’ decision.

“Then he started to play the game, putting the hand down so I couldn’t knee him. That three point rule is one of the most ridiculous rules in the sport, that and the 12 to 6 elbow rule have to be changed. Putting your hand down shouldn’t make you a downed opponent and had Hector not done that I would’ve been able to tee off on him.

“I asked Mazzagatti (referee) if he could tell me when the hand was not down, I’ve seen Herb Dean and Marc Goddard do it in the past, and when he refused it made it very awkward for me. BJ told me to pull Hector up in the headlock and then knee, but that was quite tiring and I was only able to get one knee off at a time.

“If my goal was to showcase my striking ability, I certainly went back to basics in the second and third. BJ told me to do as much in the corner after the first round and it got me the win in the end.”

Fields, the loudest man in the room during the fight, gave his thoughts on the action and commended Pendred on his victory.

“I cornered Cathal for every fight except his first Cage Warriors title fight, but it’s always horrible to watch your friend. Even though I have every faith in Cathal’s ability, the fact that you’re not controlling what they’re doing can be awkward.

“When I saw him go down I wasn’t that worried. People like us who have seen him fighting know how tough he is and the shots he got hit with didn’t seem that bad.
There was a right hand and then a left that Cathal later told me connected on his ear. That’s what knocked him off balance, the way he described it to me was his brain was firing on all cylinders but his legs weren’t working.

“It was obviously going to have to be a clearly won round for Cathal in the second and I think he did that really well. That’s one thing I’ve always admired about him, he just knows how to win. It’s probably a mentality that he built up from rugby, but he does it so well.

“He doesn’t get emotional, he’s the exact opposite of me. I go in and try to get the finish and I’ve put myself in some bad positions doing that, but he figured out a way he could win and stuck to it. Had the three point rule not been in affect he would have finished,” he finished.

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