clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Heavyweight Prospect Todd Duffee Excited for UFC Debut

Last September in only his fifth pro fight, 23-year-old Todd Duffee stormed into opponent territory in Brazil and accomplished what only one person prior had done to PRIDE and UFC veteran Assuerio Silva in over eleven years – stop him with strikes.

The impressive win opened eyes and eventually led to a deal with the UFC earlier this year. This Saturday, the highly touted American Top Team prospect (5-0 pro, 1-1 ammy) will look to showcase his explosive athletic ability on the big stage when he faces Canadian Tim Hague at UFC 102 in Portland.

In this exclusive interview with FanHouse, Duffee talks about his upcoming UFC debut, the name-making Silva win and tells us why his "Irish Car Bomb" nickname can be quite deceiving.

Your debut was supposed to be at UFC 99 against Mostapha Al Turk, then Mike Russow at UFC 102 and finally Tim Hague. Considering all the shuffling going around since you first signed, how does it feel to be just a little over a week away from fight night?

I still haven't bought into it. But I'm excited, I'm very excited but until it really happens... it's probably not going to hit me until I get there and they're telling me I'm ready to hit the stage. I've had so many fights on me that it's kinda been a long road, but I'm excited at the same time to finally get in there.

How do you like Tim Hague for your UFC debut?

Tim is a really, really tough opponent. He embodies tough, that's kinda what I say his style is almost. I don't mean to be disrespectful by that, but he's got a great chin, he's got a good heart, he's shown he can go three rounds and shown he can fight for three rounds and not just grind out three rounds. He's well-rounded at the same time, so he's a very formidable opponent especially for a debut, and I'm excited about it.

Both of you are big heavyweights, how much do you walk around?

It really varies to be honest. I don't really follow a strict diet. I've always been a big kid. I think my senior year [of high school] I was probably around 260. By the time I was 19 I was 280, but once I was involved with mixed martial arts, my weight dropped since the cardio is so important. Nowadays I haven't been much over 265 in the last two or three years. Usually between 250 and 260, it just depends on the day and how I'm eating or just how much I've been training or so on. I really wouldn't say I fit anywhere in particular. It really varies from day to day.

You have ties with both the Hardcore Gym and American Top Team. How often do you train with each gym?

I would say Athens was kinda a home for me. I've made a lot of good friends out there. Adam Singer is a wonderful coach. The big problems were just the bodies and the lack of compe – I wouldn't say competition actually, they'll little guys and they're a great group, we just need some heavy, heavyweights. I train there usually when I'm not close to a fight. Like say after this fight I plan on going out there for two or three weeks and work on my game a little bit with Adam. But if I'm within six to eight weeks of a fight, I'm down here at ATT. If I had the money honestly I would spend the middle of that eight weeks, maybe a week and a half, in Athens, but that's not something financially I can pull off... just to get a different look and be around familiar faces, people that have known me for a really long time. But I would say it would be equal.

At ATT, you have heavyweights like Antonio Silva to mix it up with.

I train with Antonio Silva "Big Foot." I train with Thiago Silva, Mario Rinaldi, Carmelo Marrero. We got a really good group out here. We got some other unknowns. We've got good wrestlers that nobody's ever heard of, like our heavier weight classes out here, that are about to make a name for themselves. I got a pretty good-sized group out here that have been a joy to work with.

You name started to get out there with your win over Assuerio Silva. That was the first time he's been stopped in almost ten years. How did it feel to be the first person to stop him in almost ten years?

It felt wonderful, man. People in the gym knew I was capable of it but nobody's really heard of me outside of my gym. I had not really gotten any opportunities up until that point. Every opportunity I've gotten – actually I got to fight in the Dominican like eight weeks prior but before that it was almost a full year before picking up a good fight because everything kept falling through or I've had shows that were canceled entirely, or my opponents would get injured, so it's really frustrating and then I rattled off two big fights.

I remember just sitting beside the cage with a sign of relief, like now people will have to respect me. I've always heard, "oh, he's just a big athlete," "just because he looks good" or "he can't fight," things like that. With that win it kinda solidified me as a legitimate fighter as opposed to an athlete or a body.

What was your mindset coming in against someone with so much more experience than you?

For me, I really wasn't too concerned. I don't think I had much of a mindset. I was just kinda just down there to fight. It was my job and I kinda looked at it like that. I was aware that he was more experienced than me, and in my head I thought maybe he had some tricks. And I remember when we first locked up on the cage and I kinda just sat there for a minute because he had me in this awkward clinch and I thought he was baiting me into something. But that really wasn't the case.

I was a little cautious in the fight because of that but I wouldn't say I had a particular mindset. I was just there to do my job and do everything I could to win and the rest would take care of itself. Honestly one thing I was concerned of was the decision cause I knew how hard he was to finish. He's notorious for that. He's hung around guys like Tim Sylvia for three rounds, Aleksander Emelianenko was a split decision, and even Kongo [was a majority decision]. I knew that if it went to a decision that I would not get the nod just because he's hometown, that kinda thing.

What led to your decision to skip other promotions and sign directly with the UFC? Did you receive offers elsewhere?

Honestly, I didn't. I'm not even going to lie, I was not UFC hungry. And that doesn't mean it wasn't my dream to be in the UFC cause clearly it's every fighter's dream to fight on that stage, but since I've gotten into the sport, I would really like to think I've got a lot of respect for the sport and I wanted to be proven before I got to the ultimate proving ground. At the same time, you can't pass that kind of opportunity up.

Once I got word that they were interested, I was still on my manager like, "why don't we try Japan?" or "try this [other promotion]?" and there really weren't any other promotions [interested]. Clearly smaller promotions around the area were definitely interested but no other big promotions. Nothing like Strikeforce, or DREAM, Sengoku – no one like that were interested. Again, I definitely wanted to fight in the UFC, no question. It was just a matter of I don't want to be that guy showing up there that didn't belong. I knew I belonged but at the same time I wanted to have already proven I belonged.

You're in the middle of college studies at the University of Georgia. Is that on hold?

Yeah. Man, that was a rough thing to walk away from, just because of my mother. She's made such great sacrifices to get me that opportunity. That was one thing I struggled with initially of making that jump to leave school. I haven't entirely left, I'm still enrolled in two online classes, but in a sense I have kinda left because I expect once I win this fight, and finish those two online classes, I'd like to be more than 100% into fighting.

Judging from your "Irish Car Bomb" nickname, I take it you like your cocktails with stout, Irish whiskey and cream?

I don't really drink at all to be honest. Everyone else in my family does but me I'm not a big drinker. One of my friends just came up with the nickname. I have an Irish ethnic background to a certain extent. I'm not full blood or anything like that but there's some percentage in my bloodline and he just ended up coming up with that nickname. It hasn't really caught on to my knowledge. Some of my friends they get into it, but as far as in the fight community, I haven't heard it too much. I'm not a big drinker to be honest. I will go out and drink maybe two-three times a year.

Do you get any inspiration from Brian Bowles (Hardcore Gym) who in three years captured a world title?

Yeah I really do. He actually came down here for his training camp when he was getting ready for Miguel Torres. He stayed with me, and it was good to have him around. He's got a good energy, he's a got a good energy towards the sport and it was definitely inspirational watching that fight. Watching how he came out like such a professional when he's only had like eight professional fights and he did what he was supposed to do. It was very, very inspirational. He's an incredible fighter.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the MMA Fighting Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of all your fighting news from MMA Fighting