The Biggest Night In SBGi’s MMA History
Three SBGi Fighters Compete At UFC 189
This Saturday is set to be the biggest night in the history of Straight Blast Gym. UFC 189, at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, will play host to three SBGi fighters seeking to pick up victories on potentially the biggest UFC card of all time.
Cathal Pendred seeks to join just two other fighters in UFC history to have won five fights inside their first year in the organization. Gunnar Nelson returns to the Octagon after nine months out, seeking to get back to winning ways after suffering his first ever loss, and place himself back in the picture for a future shot at the UFC welterweight title. Finally, Conor McGregor makes history as the first SBGi fighter, and first Irishman, to compete for a UFC title. He headlines the event, taking on Chad Mendes for the interim UFC featherweight title, after current champion Jose Aldo withdrew with bruised ribs last month. Suggestions that the withdrawal of Aldo would put a dampener on proceedings are already being proven wrong – Dana White confirmed today that the event is breaking all previous records, including PPV pre-buys and internet traffic, and is set to be the biggest card, and fight, of all time. As hype for the event increases with each day it draws nearer, we can now safely say that it is Straight Blast Gym’s Irish superstar that fans are breaking records to see. It was never about the now-injured champion.
Cathal Pendred vs John Howard
Cathal Pendred takes on John Howard in what could be his fifth win inside twelve months in the UFC. Only two other fighters have ever managed such a prolific first year with the organization (Chris Leben in 2006 and Roger Huerta in 2007). An emphatic win, though, will mean so much more to Pendred that achieving that particular statistic. Pendred has been cursed with a degree of frustration after each of his first four UFC bouts, leaving each one feeling like he didn’t perform to the peak of his ability. Most recently, just three weeks ago in Mexico City, he defeated Augusto Montano by unanimous decision. Despite adding another ‘W’ to his record, Pendred was left hungry for an elusive finish, his opponent having evaded the Irishman for much of the contest. A win against John Howard, especially inside the distance, would likely mean a step up for Pendred, and the chance to take on a higher ranked opponent when the UFC returns to Dublin in October.
Gunnar Nelson vs Brandon Thatch
Gunnar Nelson faces Brandon Thatch on the main card this Saturday. Both men had tallied up double-digit win streaks before both suffering their first UFC losses last time out (Nelson’s first career loss). Thatch represents a change in opponent for Nelson, who was originally scheduled to face John Hathaway. Ever calm, Gunnar Nelson had this to say about the late change of opponent:
“I don’t know how I feel about the change of opponent… I have never fought John Hathaway and I have never fought Brandon Thatch, so I couldn’t really say if one is more of a challenge than the other… All I know is that I’ve been training hard. As usual, I’m just focusing on what I’m doing.“
With lessons learned from his first career loss against Rick Story last year, Nelson will be eager to reestablish himself as a contender for the UFC welterweight title with a victory.
Conor McGregor vs Chad Mendes
Last but not least, Conor McGregor takes on Chad Mendes for the interim UFC featherweight title. There has been almost round-the-clock coverage of the SBGi Ireland man for months now, as McGregor has built up UFC 189 into the biggest MMA event of all time with endless soundbites and antics. But aside from the glitz, glamour and hype, this fight represents a truly incredible moment for Straight Blast Gym. Conor McGregor has been training his entire career with SBGi Ireland head coach John Kavanagh, back when the gym was little more than a poorly heated warehouse, a few mats and a handful of guys eager to learn. From humble beginnings to a national hero and household name through hard work and commitment, is an achievement that nobody can deny the whole SBGi Ireland team.
The critics who wrote off McGregor as ‘all talk’ seem to become quieter and quieter each time his words play out exactly as predicted in the Octagon. Staggering knockouts of Diego Brandao, Dustin Poirier and Dennis Siver emphatically punctuate his trash talk, turning assumed hyperbole into dramatic statements of fact. While there is no doubt that Chad Mendes represents a bigger and different challenge than the opponents McGregor has faced in the past, there is no reason to believe McGregor can’t become the interim champion come Saturday night. Should that happen, perhaps McGregor’s first title defense will come at UFC’s return to Dublin in October, again, just as Conor once predicted.
Good luck to all the SBG fighters competing this weekend. It will no doubt be an incredible night. Be sure to watch the fights however you can and support the tribe!