Being the last man to defeat Conor McGregor has its advantages.
Despite only having two fights in the UFC, Joseph Duffy was invited along with the biggest names in MMA to the “Go Big” press conference last month in Las Vegas. He is also set to headline UFC Fight Night 76 on Saturday night in Dublin.
The McGregor effect is full steam ahead for Duffy, a talented fighter with a humdrum personality. If not for the win over McGregor, which occurred eons ago, Duffy would still be buried in the Fight Pass prelims. But he is already headlining a UFC fight card against Dustin Poirier, a former featherweight contender, in a high-profile lightweight fight.
Dublin serving as the backdrop is obviously a reason for Duffy’s main event presence, seeing as he is one of the most talented prospects to ever come out of Ireland. But the biggest reason for Duffy’s instantaneous rise was a meaningless win from five years ago that suddenly has great meaning.
“Another spinoff off my name, you’re welcome — Dana [White], Lorenzo [Fertitta] and Frank [Fertitta] — you’re welcome,” McGregor said, when talking about Duffy at the press conference.
While McGregor is undoubtedly the reason for Duffy’s expedited push, he isn’t the reason for Duffy having a spot on the UFC roster. Make no mistake: Irish Joe is the real deal. His professional record currently sits at 14-1 in MMA. Only one of those wins went the distance.
It can even be argued that Duffy should have been in the UFC before McGregor, if not for him taking a three-year break from MMA to focus on his professional boxing career. As a pro boxer, Duffy compiled a 7-0 record. It wasn’t too long after that he decided to return to the cage and resume his MMA career.
Duffy’s return couldn’t have come at a better time.
The Irish takeover led by McGregor was in full-effect, and it opened the door to a multitude of other Irish prospects. Duffy has proven that he is more than a chip off the McGregor block in his UFC run thus far, earning back-to-back first round finishes over Jake Lindsey and Ivan Jorge.
He’ll always have ties with McGregor.
Coincidentally enough, Poirier was the first definitive test for the UFC interim featherweight champ, and he’ll serve in the same manner for Duffy on Saturday. There is also the history of the first fight.
Duffy doesn’t believe anything has really changed in terms of the technical gap. If a rematch with McGregor ever comes together down the road, he told MMAFighting that he believes he would net another first round finish.
“I believe I can take Conor out just as quickly. Everyone else has noticed Conor has greatly improved, and so am I. Everything Conor does, I feel can beat him at, he uses more kicks. I’ve been doing taekwondo since I was five. There’s not an area I feel he can beat me.”
McGregor’s striking is evolutionary in MMA. He implements southpaw tactics with the same awkward tendencies as a young “Prince” Naseem Hamed, and he does all of it out of a karate stance. The slick, perpetual footwork helps as well.
But even with all of McGregor’s trickery on the feet, Duffy might actually be the more well-rounded fighter. Along with a professional boxing background, he is a black belt in Taekwondo and Japanese jiu-jitsu. He also has a purple belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu.
We’ll have to learn with our eyes and not our ears when Duffy takes center stage against Poirier. Though both are Irish UFC fighters, Duffy wants to make it abundantly clear that he is nothing like McGregor.
“At the end of the day, my job isn’t to talk, my job is to fight,” said Duffy. “He can talk all he wants.”