David Hennessy talks to Joe Duffy, the new Irish star of UFC who can say he flattened Conor McGregor. “I’ve been fighting since before Conor even picked up a pair of gloves,” he tells us
Donegal fighter Joe Duffy, of the UFC, is well known for beating Conor McGregor. One of only two to defeat the Irish UFC superstar, Joe is the last to beat McGregor who has not been beaten since they met in 2010. It took Joe just 38 seconds to force McGregor to submit. Since then, McGregor has earned a world title shot and when Jose Aldo Jr pulled out due to injury in July, he beat Chad Mendes to become interim champion.
Speaking to The Irish World on the day of the announcement of a UFC Fight Night in Dublin on October 24, a night that will feature both Duffy and McGregor, with Duffy headlining, Duffy says: “People are always looking back but I prefer to look forward. I’ve been fighting since I was five and before Conor even picked up a pair of gloves, I’d probably had 1,000 fights. I’ve been fighting a long time. I don’t concentrate too much on Conor. I just do my own thing and it’s time to prove I’m one of the best in the world.
“I think if I keep beating these big names, it’s only a matter of time before that (a world title shot) happens. I’ll just take it all in my stride and whoever they throw at me next is who I’m going to beat.”
Promoting his title shot, McGregor revealed to The Irish World in March that he was interested in a rematch with Duffy since Duffy had recently joined UFC. The two currently compete at different weights but Duffy, who has nothing to prove, welcomes the idea: “I think as fighters we’re naturally competitive. From his point of view, it’s a loss on his record and he wants to redeem that. From my point of view, he’s the interim champion. From both points of view, there’s interest in the fight.
“I would say we’re both totally different fighters to what we were back then so it makes for an interesting match up.”
Joe takes on American Dustin Poirier on October 24: “Yeah, last year I was watching on TV so it’s going to be nice to be involved in this one.
“He’s very well rounded and he’s looked good at 155 so I think it makes for an exciting match up. We’ve both got power in our hands and both got a good ground game. I think it’s going to be an exciting fight.”
Interest in martial arts has grown in Ireland in recent years, due to the achievements of fighters like Duffy and McGregor: “I think the difference in the last two years in Ireland is just incredible. I was home the weekend, I was up in Donegal and I landed close to the home town and there was hundreds out with banners and everything and they made a motorcade taking us down to the port. I think that just goes to show how popular the sport has become.”
The UFC announced they had signed Joe in January and the Donegal fighter made his UFC debut in in Texas in March with a technical knock out of Jake Lindsey. Joe’s next fight, just last month, was closer to home. He took on Ivan Jorge in Glasgow, beating him by submission.
On his last fight, Joe says: “To be truthful, I wasn’t 100% happy with it. I think I forced a few things and I was trying to make things happen a little bit too much instead of being patient and just letting things run their course.
“I think it showed other areas of my game that people maybe didn’t believe was 100% there. Obviously, submitting a BJJ (Brazilian jujitsu) black belt caught a few people off guard, there’s positives to take.”
The Donegal community were eager to support Joe and travelled to Glasgow in big numbers: “There was a wide gang there that travelled from all over, up from London and over from Donegal so there was a big support there.”
Born in the Burtonport area of Donegal, Joe did much of his growing up in Wales where the family moved to. Joe began fighting in various regional promotions before joining Cage Warriors which is where he was pitted against Conor McGregor in Cork.
The only loss on Duffy’s record is one to Ivan Musardo in 2011 when Joe was challenging for the Cage Warriors Lightweight Championship. In this fight, Joe broke his hand which threw him into difficulty: “The Musardo fight I didn’t really take too much to heart, I felt like I was better than him. To his credit, he stuck in the fight and he managed to beat me with a submission so I didn’t beat myself up too much over that fight but these losses, they really do push you to the next level I feel.
“I broke my hand halfway through the third round so obviously that was difficult, I couldn’t do a lot with that hand and I slipped towards the end of the fourth and once he got the choke in, it was difficult to defend. It is what it is. I just keep looking forward.”
Joe also has an impressive professional boxing record, winning all seven of his fights. These were in 2013, some time out of mixed martial arts: “I knocked the boxing on the head and I’m concentrating on my career in UFC now. I’m grateful I’ve done it. I definitely think it was an experience to help me and has been very beneficial but my future is here in the UFC.
“It (the decision) was difficult, I was suffering with injuries and other stuff so it was difficult decision to make but when I was in MMA, I always felt like I was more at home. I always felt like I was more of a natural at this and that was a big factor in my decision.”
Although currently based in Montreal, Joe does say his girlfriend is based in London. Could Joe see himself based here? “Yeah, I would like to think so. I would love to get a place in London. I’ve got a lot of links there and a lot of my friends from Donegal are all working there as well. I’ve got a lot of friends in London so down the line hopefully.”
Joe Duffy fights Dustin Poirier at Dublin’s 3Arena on October 24