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The stage gets bigger, but Irish Joe stays humble


There is a natural ease about Joseph Duffy that is impossible to miss. With his area of expertise coming in the art of hand-to-hand combat, it would be easy to throw a clichéd tag like “grace under pressure” and the like to describe his personality, but even if that were the case, the larger point would still be missed.

The 27-year-old Irishman has obtained a unique level of self-confidence, and knowing what he’s capable of inside the Octagon has allowed the other elements that come with a rising profile on the sport’s biggest stage to be something “Irish Joe” can easily shrug off. And his ability to do so is a notable quality when considering how much of the spotlight is barreling down the proverbial tracks in his direction.


“I suppose that’s just the way I have been brought up,” Duffy said. “Cockiness is not something I feel people like back in Donegal. Also, living here in Montreal, nobody knows me or recognizes me, so it’s pretty easy to fly under the radar. In the gym there are no egos, so if the likes of Firas (Zahabi), Rory (MacDonald), and Georges (St-Pierre) stay grounded, I’m sure I’ll never have a problem doing the same.”

After a successful stint on the European MMA scene, the Tristar representative made his official arrival to the UFC earlier this year when the promotion set down in Dallas in March. Where most fighters making their debut do so with limited hype and fanfare attached, that wasn’t the case for the scrappy, brick-handed lightweight. Duffy’s emergence in the ranks of the UFC’s 155-pound fold came with a certain amount of notoriety attached, as he was – and still is – the last man to have defeated countryman and current UFC featherweight champion Conor McGregor.

That detail, coupled with the explosion of attention that has descended on Irish MMA in general, made Duffy a fighter to watch, and he’s wasted little time living up to the expectations surrounding him. Just seven months after his UFC debut – and another win over Ivan Jorge – Duffy was set to headline the UFC’s much anticipated return to Dublin on Oct. 24th against Dustin Poirier, but the bout was postponed after the Irishman was forced to withdraw just days before the scrap was set to go down.

Nevertheless, the pairing was kept intact and rescheduled for UFC 195 on Jan. 2 in Las Vegas, and the months since have only increased the excitement surrounding the lightweight tilt.

Duffy’s dance with “The Diamond” is undoubtedly the biggest fight of his young career, and it was made possible by his two previous showings inside the Octagon in 2015. On both occasions, Duffy finished his opposition in crisp fashion within the opening round, and appeared to expend a minimal amount of effort forcing two capable combatants out of the contest.

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Duffy credits those performances and the results they produced to the versatility he presents when things go live. The surging lightweight believes he has something different than what his opposition are used to seeing, and the complexities of his game make his style a difficult riddle to solve.

“Without a doubt,” Duffy said. “I feel I have so many more areas to my game that people haven’t seen, but each opponent will ask a different question of my game and it will give people a chance to see how well rounded my game is.”

His victories inside the Octagon have steadily built Duffy’s buzz in the MMA world, but even that type of whirlwind isn’t enough to throw him off stride.

“I’ve found it quite easy to adapt to,” Duffy said about the increase in attention surrounding him. “I don’t think too much about any of that stuff, I just treat it like any other fight. I’ve headlined cards and been in big fights in the past, so I believe that experience is similar, and as exciting as it is, I don’t like to let any emotions get in the way of the job at hand.

“It’s very exciting to see the Irish people have taken to MMA the way they have. I think with the publicity the sport is getting in Ireland it will help with future talent breaking through down the line and give our country a great lift in the sport.”

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The UFC’s lightweight division has been rolling full steam ahead for the past six years and Duffy believes his fight with Poirier will be the perfect showcase for what is yet to come. The Louisiana native is as fiery as they come inside the Octagon and has found success at an impressive clip working behind his aggression and sheer determination to claim victory at all costs.

Duffy not only sees the promise of a healthy row in his future, but also understands the possibilities of what defeating a fighter with Poirier’s name value could to do his place in the shark tank that is the lightweight divisional upper tier.

“I thought it was a great matchup,” Duffy said. “I just feel that anybody who comes to fight like Dustin does will give me the opportunities I need to finish the fight. And that’s what I like to do. He is ranked 12th, so a good win in this fight and I’ll be mixing it up with the elite of the lightweight division, but I always take things one fight at a time.”

Even with his upcoming bout with Poirier rapidly approaching, there is one opponent in particular that casts a shadow that stretches far on down the road. While their first go took place years ago and in a time before he was the sensation he’s currently evolved into, another potential showdown with McGregor has continued to hover in the background. And while this is partially due to the history between the two fighters and the SBG Ireland product’s meteoric rise to the forefront of the fight game, Duffy has kept his signature calm despite the buzz.

“It’s not in my nature to trash talk,” Duffy said. “I prefer to do my talking inside the Octagon and so far I feel that’s saying all that needs to be said.

As for an eventual matchup with “The Notorious” down the line?

“Yeah, who knows? I offered to fight Conor when Jose (Aldo) got injured and he went very quiet, so maybe it’s not something he’s truly interested in.”