Cathal Pendred has set his sights on a UFC contract, and he's determined to accomplish this goal by any means necessary.
After toppling the best competition the European market had to offer and laying claim to the Cage Warriors welterweight title, the Boston-born fighter believed he was inching closer to receiving that coveted call from the UFC brass.
His friend and teammate Conor McGregor had already set about shaking up the UFC landscape, and the 27-year-old was eager to get in on the action happening stateside. But when that call never came, Pendred looked at the next challenge in front of him and returned to business. And he did so in devastating fashion.
The Irishman earned a third-round stoppage victory over UFC veteran Che Mills back in June. With the victory over Mills, Pendred was sure bigger things would come to call—a high-profile opponent to trade leather with or interest from the UFC—but after crumbling the British striker, he was once again left waiting by the phone.
But this time, rather than leave things to chance and wait for his value to be recognized, "The Punisher" decided to take fate into his own hands and boarded a plane to Indianapolis.
During the final week of August in the "Circle City," the UFC would be holding tryouts for the 19th installment of The Ultimate Fighter. While Pendred believed his resume and the victims claimed on it had taken him past the level where most fighters turn to the reality-based fighting tournament, the window of opportunity was open.
With bags packed and passport(s) in hand, Pendred set out on his unique avenue to the sport's biggest stage.
"There wasn't any particular plan," Pendred told Bleacher Report. "I was told if I beat Che Mills things were going to open up in the UFC, but their 170-pound roster is so full right now. I was just sitting around, and there are no big fights for me right now. I've beaten all the top guys in Europe, and I was hoping I could get Paul Daley, but he's signed up with another organization right now and that's not possible.
"There are no big fights for me, and I want to keep moving forward in my career. Sitting around isn't the way to get that done. 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.
"Honestly, I think I made (Mills) look worse than (Rory) MacDonald did," he added. "I know he finished him at the end of the second, but the fight was close through most of the first round. I was aiming to finish him at the end of the second, get on the microphone and say, 'I just did what Rory MacDonald did' but it didn't work out that way, and I finished him in the third. It was still a good win against a guy who has competed at the top level of the sport, and I proved I belong there."
McGregor has already set the MMA world abuzz and brought attention to the Irish talent pool, and Pendred is eager to get in on the action.
With the UFC making a push toward the Irish market in 2014, there is a good chance the call would have come, but Pendred isn't looking to wait on the sidelines for opportunity to knock. Rather, he is determined to make an impact on the UFC roster by whatever avenues are open for travel.
If that means flying overseas to tryout for the reality program, so be it. If the tryouts were for fighters a weight class above where he typically competes, it wouldn't matter. The only thing on Pendred's mind is securing his place on the UFC roster and then making a run at championship gold.
"I definitely believe I can make an impact here," Pendred said enthusiastically. "The UFC has committed to going to Ireland next year—I believe around September—and I will definitely be on that card. I'm hoping to be on two or three cards before that point and hopefully draw a big-name opponent like Josh Koscheck or someone on that level. That is what I'm aiming for. Those are the goals I've set for myself.
"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. I've also got two passports so it's quite handy. I was born in Boston and I don't need visas or anything like that to fight. I can fight anywhere in the world and I'll fight anyone. I'll fight at 170 or 185, it doesn't matter to me. I'm just eager to get in there and compete with the best in the world."
**The official roster for TUF 19 is yet to be released and it remains unclear whether or not Pendred made the final cut.
Duane Finley is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report. All quotes are obtained firsthand unless noted otherwise.