Joseph Duffy: ‘I have been fighting all my life.’

Joseph Duffy was one of European MMA’s rising stars when he made the brief switch to professional boxing in 2013. Now 28, he has taken the UFC by storm since his first fight last March and he will headline Fight Night 77 in Dublin’s 3Arena on October 24.

Though born in Donegal, Duffy spent most of his childhood in Wales. He is the last man to have defeated Conor McGregor as well as Antrim’s Norman Parke in the octagon - a double he achieved in 2010.

Q:

Your first fight in the UFC was just last March, now you’re headlining. How cool is that?

A:

It is pretty surreal. I remember the debut back in March and that was a bit surreal, but getting the word that you are going to headline in October: that was pretty special. I haven’t done any of the (pre-fight) open workouts or anything like that yet, so it’s all going to be a part of the experience. The more you do it the more you get used to it. It’s just another form of training.

You have to get used to dealing with the media and all that stuff, too. Since I’ve come back from boxing I’ve been reminding myself to just go out and enjoy it. This is what we do and this is why we kill ourselves in the gym every day. If you can’t enjoy it in the octagon then what’s the point. I don’t feel any added pressure, I’m just concentrating on enjoying it.

Q:

Conor McGregor headlined UFC Fight Night 46 in Dublin last year. Where were you at the time?

A:

I was actually at the wedding of one of the boys in the gym. We were all sitting watching the fight on the phones. I know a few of the guys in the gym who were at it and they told me all about the atmosphere, so hopefully it will be something similar.

Q:

McGregor is up front about saying this a business for him. What is the driving force for you?

A:

I have been fighting all my life and I would train if I had no goal. I would always be competing and looking to better myself in martial arts just because that is my passion. This gives me an opportunity to prove myself against the best guys in the world and prove I am one of them as well. To do it in front of a home crowd of 10,000: not many get to say that. We are getting paid well to do something we love. There’s definitely no complaints from me.”

Q:

McGregor and Cathal Pendred admit that the UFC money they have made has changed their lives. What has it done for you?

A:

It does make a big difference. It takes the weight off your shoulders and allows you to go training full-time and be relaxed about it. I’ve no other distractions. You can give it 100%. It opens doors as well. If you have money you can invest it in your training. You can go to the top gyms in the world and bring in better nutritionists and these people who will better your career.

Q:

Do you think most people understand that sort of expenditure when they hear about someone like you winning $50,000 for best performance of the night?

A:

You look at some of the guys at the top of the UFC: they probably didn’t make a lot out of their purses at the start, but they invested in their camps and in training partners and so on. So the figures you read aren’t the full story. (MMA legend) George St-Pierre told me one time: ‘invest in yourself and you’ll be better off for it in the long-term’.

Q:

Where did the love of combat sports all start with you?

A:

I knew very early on. I’ve been fighting since I was five. Tae Kwon Do, Thai boxing, jiu-jitsu, grappling competitions. I stumbled on MMA through that. When I turned 16 I started doing amateur stuff, when I was allowed. It progressed, but even in school I knew what I wanted. People would ask me what I wanted and I would give a definitive answer.

Q:

So was that answer to be a boxer, a martial arts expert or an MMA fighter, or what?

A:

It was MMA. I always wondered how I would get on in boxing, but it was never something I thought about pursuing. I had never boxed, even at amateur, until a few years ago.

Q:

And yet you turned to boxing in 2013 and earned a 7-0 record as a professional. Why the change?

A:

It was quite a difficult decision to make. I loved MMA and always knew it was my passion and that was always going to be the case. I knew boxing would never be the same, but I got a good opportunity to work with one of the best coaches in the boxing world and I was fortunate enough to have sponsors to back me as well.That took care of the financial worries. More than anything, I’m a person who doesn’t want to have any regrets. When I’m old I want to be able to say that I gave it a go. That’s what it was. I got to fight professionally and I got to spar with some of the best fighters in the world: James DeGale, Andy Lee, George Groves, Chris Eubank Jr. It was priceless.

Q:

So, why did you come back to MMA?

A:

By the time of my seventh fight I was struggling with hand injuries and spending a lot of time on the sidelines. I was getting frustrated and then you are seeing so many other Irish fighters doing so well on the UFC circuit and that did make me question myself. That prompted the move back again.

Q:

Fair to say that the boxing has stood to you in the octagon?

A:

I feel it has. It taught me a lot. Because you only have hands the gaps are very small and you have to find ways of creating them. Boxing taught me how to spot them and take advantage of them and all the basics as well: good footwork, fitness and head movement, defence and offence.

Tickets to UFC Dublin at 3Arena go on sale Friday, September 4. See more UFC programming, including The Ultimate Fighter:

Team McGregor vs Team Faber, in the Republic of Ireland on BT Sport (part of the Setanta Sports Pack). Picture: Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty

 



Breaking Stories

The week in Fantasy Premier League: Salah redemption, Kane collapse and looking beyond colour-coded fixtures

Dom O’Rourke salutes Irish boxing’s bumper medal haul

Katie Taylor in defiant mood: I thrive under pressure

Sergio Garcia revels in the rain at Andalucia

Breaking Stories

David Beckham admits marriage is ‘hard work’: Is it normal for long-term relationships to be tough?

On World Menopause Day: 5 myths you really need to stop believing

Photography awards capture life at its wildest

This is how to stay healthy as a new parent – according to The Body Coach

More From The Irish Examiner