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Cathal Pendred 'shocked' he isn't on UFC 188 main card, but thinks he has nothing to prove

Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Cathal Pendred is on quite the run in the UFC middleweight division. He's not a top contender, but in three appearances, he's locked up three wins, including one stoppage. He's Irish, part of one of Europe's most celebrated MMA teams and called upon by the UFC to do PR in advance of his fights. In fact, he did that for his upcoming fight. Pendred takes on Augusto Montano at UFC 188 in Mexico City, Mexico this Saturday and was even part of the advance team in April promoting the fight in the local market.

So, when he found out his fight wasn't on the main card or even the televised preliminary card (he'll be fighting on Fight Pass), he wasn't quite sure what to make of it.

"Yeah, I was shocked when I saw that because I was brought out here in April and I remember the PR team looking after me when I was here, said I was on the main card," Pendred told Ariel Helwani on Monday's The MMA Hour. "The guy I'm fighting, 'Dodger', made his debut on the last UFC Mexico card and he was on the main card. I took it nearly for granted that I was on it, but it makes no odds to me.

"At the end of the day, I just gotta go in there and fight my fight," he continued. "I'm really looking forward to putting on a really spectacular performance. I've got three fights and three wins in the UFC, but I still feel like I've shown nowhere near to my best abilities in the UFC, which is frustrating, but it says a lot that I'm down in there and I'm not fighting to my own standards and I'm still winning. I think I go in there, put on the performance I deserve to myself, that I owe to myself, I think I'm going to turn some heads."

The question, then, is why the disconnect? Why is a fighter who is undefeated during their UFC run who is also being asked to be a public relations presence being relegated to the least-viewed portion of the card?

Could it be that his last fight, a controversial unanimous decision win over Sean Spencer at UFC Fight Night 59, soured UFC brass after strong fan reaction?

"It could be," Pendred admitted. "The thought slipped into my mind, but I'm not thinking about it because it's something that's out of my control. Whether I'm fighting in the main event or the opening fight of the night, I have to go in there and do the same job. That's all I focus on. That's all that's in my control is turning up fight night and fighting to the best of my abilities.

"All of these other different variables are just that," he explained. "They make no difference to me. I'm not in control of them and it's just going to be another fight, another win for me. It doesn't matter where I am on the card."

Pendred said he's got loyal fans, but was taken aback by the reaction online to UFC fans who disagreed with his last win. The experience, Pendred noted, was a reminder about the true nature of social media and sports fandom.

"I've never see nothing like it before," Pendred said of the online blowback. "I got a fair bit of stick on social media. Social media is a great tool as a fighter to promote yourself, but on the other end of the stick, when you're getting criticism, you're subjected to it all.

"I learned a lot from that performance. I was bitterly disappointed with that performance afterwards. As soon as the bell rang for the third round, I was really disappointed, but I was never in question about that I had lost in fight. I believed I had won the fight. Three independent judges who were sitting around the Octagon, not beside each other, thought the same thing. I didn't make the decision in the end. They did. But there was definitely a lot of slack I got from the fans," he said.

More than anything, though, Pendred points to comments made by UFC commentator Joe Rogan and, to a lesser extent, UFC President Dana White. Both Rogan and White noted on Fox Sports 1 after Pendred's fight with Spencer they both believed the fight was a robbery. That, though, was a passing comment. Pendred underscored Rogan's commentary throughout that fight as a motivating factor for fans to push back against him.

"That was very annoying," Pendred said of Rogan's comments. "I thought he was critical of me the whole time throughout the fight, even when I was doing things well, he kept mentioning what I was doing wrong and he kept mentioning what my opponent was doing well. Even in the third round, at one point I was taking my opponent down and he was talking bout how tired and bad my cardio was as I was taking my opponent down.

"It was a lot of negative comments," Pendred argued. "He's in a position where he can sway a lot of people's minds. I felt it may have had an effect on it. It was a close fight, but to call it a robbery was way off the mark. You look at the statistics, I outstruck my opponent. I hit my opponent more times than he hit me. His strikes looked more beautiful than mine, but that's never the way I fought. I'm not spectacular in any area. You look at some of my teammates like Conor McGregor, he's, in my opinion, the best striker in MMA. You look at Gunnar Nelson. In my opinion, the best grappler in MMA. They're spectacular in their areas. I'm not spectacular in any area. I'm a product of hard work. That's all I know. Anything I've done well in my life or succeeded in was because I've worked hard. That's how I've achieved success in my MMA career."

Still, that doesn't change much for the Irish middleweight. He believes a fourth win is inevitable. That, Pendred claimed, will prove something to the fans, not because he has something to prove, but that the nature of the win will leave fans no choice but to acknowledge how good it is.

"I will prove something on Saturday night, but that's not in my mind," Pendred said. "That'll just be a result of my performance that I'm focusing on. I don't have a chip on my shoulder. Sports fans are entitled to their opinion. That's what being a sports fan is about, whether you're a basketball fan, a baseball fan, a football fan, you have an opinion. You may have never played the sport in your life, but you have an opinion on it. It's the same with MMA. 99 percent of the criticism would've been from people who've never stepped foot in the gym."

Whether they want to accept him or not, Pendred argued, they won't have much of a choice when it's all over.

"But that's OK," Pendreid continued. "I'm not going to worry about that. I wouldn't be in the position I'm in today if there weren't fans. That's what they're entitled to: their opinion."