UFC welterweight Cathal Pendred has put himself forward to be the ambassador for SAFE Ireland's second annual 'Man Up' campaign, which was launched yesterday in Dublin, at Pearse Street Library.
The former Cage Warriors champion wants to call on all men to use their common power to stand up against domestic violence and hopes that his role in the campaign will "challenge stereotypes" when it comes to males athletes' awareness on the issue.
SAFE Ireland predicts that there will be a significant rise in the annual statistics for domestic violence when results are released later this month, which is quite a startling forecast considering that over 8,000 women looked for support from the organization across their 40 domestic violence services last year.
According to CEO of SAFE Ireland, Sharon O'Halloran, the organization's services "are stretched beyond coping point at this stage", and she is hopeful that Pendred's pulling power will help to raise awareness that will ultimately lead to the prevention of domestic violence in the future.
Joined by Irish ministers Aodhán Ó Ríordáin and James O'Reilly as well as Gordan Jeyes, chief executive of Tulsa, the Child and Family Agency, the SBG man was praised for taking the initiative to get involved with the campaign and his enthusiasm towards the project. As far as Pendred is concerned, he knows how much of an impact sporting icons played in his own formative years, so he has made it his business to send out a positive message to those who wish to follow the same path as him and his SBG teammates.
"There is a stereotype, not just with fighters, but with male athletes," Pendred explained. "You don't hear too much about domestic violence and when you do it's usually something bad. As athletes, we are the people that are in the media and we have that spotlight. I feel like we all can have a great influence on younger people and I wanted to have a positive message for them. How could I not get involved with the Man Up campaign?
"From when I was a young boy, I used to look up to athletes. I wanted to be like them, you know, you'd see these big strong men and it's everything you want to be as a young kid. There are a lot of people that will try to follow the same path as people like me, Conor and Paddy—all of the guys—and we want to make sure the message we put out there is a positive one.
"People might have an idea of us as these macho guys who don't talk about issues like domestic violence, but I am more than happy to speak about the topic and to raise awareness on behalf of all of the victims."
As an MMA fighter, Pendred's role in the campaign might be more significant than an athlete from a different background. There have been a number of reports of domestic violence within the sport over the last few years, most notably with HBO Real Sports' Uncaged episode that focused on various fighters' cases of domestic violence. For Pendred, the issue is not exclusive to any particular field and people working in every profession in the world are affected by it.
"People can be tarred with the same brush sometimes and there are always a few bad apples. 99 percent of the people who I have met through this sport are true martial artists, they live by a strict code of discipline and they have a huge amount of respect for their opponents and all of the people that surround them.
"Personally, I have a huge support network of women in my life, I have a lot of respect for them and it is very frustrating to see my sport and my profession tarred with that domestic violence label. There have been a few different domestic violence cases in relation to MMA fighters, but I want to put myself forward as an example to challenge that stereotype.
"The thing is, I really don't think that this is an issue with this particular sport, it's across all sports. Realistically, you could do the stats across any profession in the world and you would find that domestic violence is not isolated to any particular occupation.
"There are solicitors, doctors and people in all walks of life that this issue affects. It's just the fact that athletes are already in the limelight that they can pick out the bad apples and then try to portray that it as an epidemic in the sport, but that's not the case at all. I've put myself forward for this campaign because I wanted to show that there are a lot of athletes on the other side of the argument too.
"I've offered to help and I think it's a great thing for me to do in terms of giving that positive influence to young people by spreading awareness and starting the conversation when it comes to domestic violence. One of the best ways we can stop this is to educate people, so I'm happy to help by bringing peoples' attention to the subject."
A man with a huge crossover in Irish sport given his time spent as a Schools rugby player, Pendred highlighted his wish that more athletes will get involved in the campaign next year.
"I hope that more people will get involved. When they do the campaign next year I hope we have four or five different athletes there and it continues to grow. This is only the second year and based on last year's campaign someone brought the idea to Sweden where they have launched a similar kind of thing. The more people that get involved, the more that we can educate the younger generations."
To join in on the conversation use #ManUp on Twitter or visit www.manup.ie.