A triumphant return – Joseph Duffy on UFC signing, Tristar, McGregor, Parke and Rocha


Early in January, Joseph Duffy became the seventh Irish man on the UFC’s roster just two fights and two emphatic victories after ending his hiatus with MMA.

Duffy was one of the most dominant forces in Europe before he took a step back from the sport in 2011, and after seeing two men he beat in their formative years, Conor McGregor and Norman Parke, making a big impact in UFC, he knew it was time for him to reclaim his spot having clocked up a record of 7-0 as a professional boxer.

The return of ‘Irish Joe’ saw him bank a third round submission over Frenchman Damien Lapilus back in August at CWFC 70, proving that he was still as versatile as ever in his all-round game. A flying knee stopped Julien Boussuge inside 30 seconds of Duffy’s second outing since returning at CWFC 74 in November, which became an overnight viral sensation – a bout the Donegal man knew was important to mark given his UFC aspirations.

“I think it was before the second fight with Boussuge. Graham (Boylan) said he had heard off Joe Silva that if I won the next fight there would be a UFC contract there if I wanted it,” revealed Duffy.

“When I first found out it was in my head that I needed to put a stamp on the performance. I knew I needed to make a bit of a statement but I felt like I had already made that mistake in the first fight I had when I came back.

“I decided that the main thing, the most important thing, was just to get the win and that made me feel a lot more comfortable. I could see my shots better and it all came together on the night for me.

“After the fight there was no word for quite a while actually. It wasn’t until the New Year that I heard from UFC. I just put it out of my head after I got the win.

“Obviously with that fight, it was only thirty seconds, I was kind of thinking that maybe I didn’t have enough cage time. I was in no wild panic to get it done, but they came back with a good offer and that was it really.

“I had a good idea that UFC might be interested even before I went back. I had a feeling that if I got a couple of good wins I would at least be on their radar. To be honest, no, I didn’t think it would be signed, sealed and delivered that quickly but I suppose that’s the way it’s happening with the rise of Irish MMA at the moment. I feel like I was riding off that wave a bit.”

Duffy discussed his excitement for his debut in Dallas on March 14 where he will face Brazilian Vagner Rocha:

“I really can’t wait to get in there. For my first fight back in Cage Warriors I hadn’t even been training for six months, so the more I’ve trained the better I’m feeling. I had a good performance in my last fight, but now with the move to Tristar, I think things can only get better for me.”

As cited by the Irish lightweight, one of the most exciting things for MMA fans will be seeing his improvements due to his move to the world famous Tristar gym in Montreal, home to pound for pound great Georges St Pierre and Rory MacDonald. Duffy explained how the Canadian move came about.

“Graham has got a lot of links at Intensiti,” he said of his management company. “He’s managing Tom Breese who is out there at the minute and I know that Graham was in touch with one of the coaches out there, Eric, who is Irish funnily enough. Graham got it all sorted for me, a few weeks ago it was confirmed that I was signed and everything else has kind of fell into place,” said Duffy.

“I can’t wait to get to Canada. It’s been a long time since I’ve been 100 per cent focused on fighting. The last time I was really spending all of my time at it was when I first signed to Cage Warriors, so I’m expecting it to make a massive difference. Being able to train with a full sized cage and everything else – it’s a world class setup out there. I really think it’s going to make a huge difference for me.”

Due to the success of McGregor, Duffy has courted a lot of media attention since he set his sights on a return to MMA. Now that he has signed with UFC, the Irishman was adamant that he is a long way off a rematch with his former opponent who he highly respects.


“As long as I make it worthwhile for them, I think that’s a fight that UFC would like to make. I’ve just got my shout now, but it’s up to me to fulfil my job and fulfil the hype that comes along with being the last man to beat someone like Conor. I’m not one of the top guys in the world at the moment, and nobody wants to see one of the top guys against someone who isn’t in that top tier. It’s up to me to do my job and work my way up through the rankings.”

McGregor has discussed a move up to lightweight where he has previously competed in the past, and for this writer’s money, Duffy might be the perfect man to reintroduce him to 155 lbs should he put a good string of wins together.

Pondering that thought, Duffy agreed that if that was what both the fans and UFC wanted, why not put on that fight and seeing how we were dealing with hypotheticals – why not do it in Croke Park?

“We’re a long way off that, but anything could happen really. If that is the fight that is going to sell, if Conor is ever thinking about moving back up, if UFC want it and the fans want it, then I don’t see why something like that couldn’t headline Croke Park in the future,” he laughed. “I don’t think I’d be in the position to close my ears to something like that.”

Similarly, with Norman Parke already competing in the lightweight division, Duffy commented on a potential matchup with the Next Generation Northern Ireland man.

“Again, it’s the same thing as it with Conor, we really respect each other as athletes,” Duffy explained. “I used to speak to Norman quite regularly after we fought. We were talking about doing different bits and pieces with our training, but we’re here to do a job.

“You won’t hear me come out and chat shit about either of them guys, but we are here to do a job. We can’t rule out fighting one another. Whoever the UFC tell me to fight, that’s what I’m going to do.”

Finally, Duffy spoke about how he matches up with Vagner Rocha who he meets in his UFC debut in Dallas on March 14.

He said: “On the feet Vagner moves an awful lot. He doesn’t like to settle, he doesn’t like to engage so I can see it being a lot like the Lapilus fight, he likes to move quite a bit too. As long as I’m patient, taking my time and setting things up, I think it could be a good night for me.

“I do believe that I’ve got the biggest advantage on the feet, but who knows what other spanners I can throw in the works?”


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