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Irish fighter Cathal Pendred eager for UFC opportunity in former hometown of Boston

Cathal Pendred is fighting at home on Saturday, but what he really wants is to fight at home.

Pendred is the Cage Warriors welterweight champion and he'll defend the belt against ex-UFC fighter Che Mills on Saturday in Dublin, Ireland.

Pendred, 25, was born in Boston but has lived the majority of his life in Ireland, where he remains hugely popular. He was born at Boston's Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, and lived the first five years of his life in that city. He's lived the rest of his life in Ireland, and now he's begun something of an online campaign to convince Dana White and other UFC officials to put him on their Aug. 17 card at the TD Garden.

So, he'll defend the title he won in March from Gael Grimaud on Saturday in his hometown, hoping the ultimate prize is an August trip to Boston and a UFC contract.

The UFC has long been interested in Ireland, so much so that several years ago it hired former boxing world champion Wayne McCullough, who is from Northern Ireland, to do public relations work in the country.

Pendred is an Irishman to the core, but when his family returned to the country after the five-year stay in Boston, things were difficult for him. He had acquired an American accent and when he began school, he was teased mercilessly for it.

His memories of his time in Boston are strong, and he thinks it would be a perfect situation if he were to debut in the UFC in his one-time hometown.

"I still have very vivid memories of my life in Boston," Pendred said. "I was really upset when we moved away. It would be the dream of a lifetime to be able to return to Boston and compete as a UFC fighter."

He studied different forms of martial arts when he was younger, but he was a rugby player of some note and thus didn't fight until after high school ended.

He got into mixed martial arts on one of his short trips to the U.S., when he went to a gym in San Diego and took a class.

"I've been hooked ever since," he said.

He's racked up a 12-2-1 record fighting in various smaller promotions and is 6-0-1 in his last seven fights.

Pendred trained for a while at the American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose, Calif., where he honed his wrestling ability.

He believes he's ready to jump into the UFC's welterweight division, and it will be up to him to prove it Saturday against Mills.

Interest in Irish MMA skyrocketed in April when Conor McGregor, a literal rags-to-riches story, knocked out Marcus Brimage at a UFC card in Sweden. Pendred wants to use that same momentum to propel himself into the UFC.

"I believe I'm ready and I think I have been," he said. "I think I have the well-rounded game you need to succeed there. What I need to do is, really, is first get the opportunity. All I ask is for an opportunity. I'll take care of the rest from there."

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