THE ULTIMATE Fighting Championship (UFC) is returning to Dublin and is set to have two Irishmen on its bill for the first time.
The country’s newest sports superstar Conor McGregor will be able to show his Irish fans what he’s capable of in the UFC ring when the pulsating extravaganza returns here for the second time since 2009.
And also due on the card is his good friend and fellow MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) star Cathal Pendred. Both young men are set to whet fight followers’ appetites as they take to the octagon in The 02 arena in September.
Dubliner Conor (25), stunned a packed stadium in Stockholm earlier this year on his UFC debut with a pummelling 67-second knockout against American Marcus Brimage.
And the then jobless Conor was almost knocked for six when UFC President Dana White announced at the post-fight press conference that the Irishman had scored the “knockout of the night” and would be getting a $60,000 bonus.
Conor and Cathal
Conor then overcame Max Holloway in Boston last August, but picked up a knee injury which has forced him to miss most of the current season.
“I don’t have f**king money, I didn’t have money before this. I was collecting €188 a week off the social welfare,” he told the Sunday World after his win in Stockholm.
“Now here I am with like $60,000 bonus and my own pay. I don’t know what the f**k is going on.
“MMA is only a young sport, there’s no money in the sport, its peanuts. If you’re not part of the UFC you’re not making a living.”
Conor, whose nickname is ‘Notorious’, originally hailed from Crumlin before moving to Lucan and now trains in John Kavanagh’s gym in Drimnagh.
“I feel I’m the man to show the Irish public what a true martial artist is and this is unarmed combat in its purest form and it
involves all styles of combat, its not just boxing, its freestyle wrestling, taekwondo, judo.”
The wisecracking featherweight has also endeared himself to viewers of RTE’s Late Late Show over the past several months with two appearances. The former apprentice plumber was the first Irishman to win a world title in MMA and then won it in another division, notching up both lightweight and featherweight titles.
His prowess in the Cage Warriors promotions and his world title victories brought him to the attention of UFC bosses, and he followed his friend Tom Egan to become the second Irishman competing in the sport.
Conor’s training buddy Cathal Pendred (27), also looks set to make the breakthrough into UFC for the first time and be added to the Dublin card. Cathal, who is dating model and singer Michele McGrath, has toppled the best competition the European market had to offer and claimed the Cage Warriors welterweight title.
McGregor with titles
‘The Punisher’ decided to take fate into his own hands and boarded a plane to Indianapolis and took part in the 19th installment of The Ultimate Fighter.
“I’ve beaten all the top guys in Europe. There are no big fights for me, and I want to keep moving forward in my career. I’m a fighter, and if I have to go into a house to fight for a UFC contract that’s what I’ll do,” he says.
Cathal hopes to be on the Dublin card.
“I’m not here to be another number, and I’m not just another Irish guy coming over here. Just like Conor, I’m here to be one of the contenders and to become a champion eventually.”