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Joseph Duffy, the last man to defeat Conor McGregor, returns at Cage Warriors 70

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Photo courtesy Tommy Lakes

These days, it seems everyone and their mother wants to shut up Conor McGregor, the bombastic Irish featherweight who sold out his hometown arena in Dublin in just his third UFC fight.

The record states that Joseph Duffy was the last fighter to actually get McGregor to zip his yap for awhile.

"Even back then, he was a firecracker," Duffy, a 26-year-old native of Donegal, Republic of Ireland, told in a recent phone interview. "He was very confident in his abilities and he wasn't afraid to tell you so. We got into it a little bit at the weigh-ins."

Duffy (10-1) met McGregor in a lightweight bout at Cage Warriors 39 on Nov. 27, 2010. Duffy seized a split-second opening and choked out McGregor with an arm triangle at the 38-second mark of the first round.

"He cracked me good in our first exchange," Duffy said. "Conor can hit, he always could. I was cut open, I had never been cut like that before and I knew I had to make something happen. Next thing I knew it was all over."

Since then, of course, McGregor has won 11 straight bouts and is on the brink of major stardom, with a huge test upcoming against Dustin Poirier at UFC 178.

Duffy, meanwhile, is ready for his return to the cage after an extended hiatus. After a nearly three-year MMA absence, he returns Saturday, when he squares off with Frenchman Damien Lapulis (9-3-1) in the main event of Cage Warriors 70 in Dublin.

Lest you consider Duffy some sort of one-time flash in the pan, a trivia curiosity along the lines of "the guy who beat Jose Aldo," or "the woman who defeated Cris Cyborg," though, it's clear Duffy is more than just "the guy who beat Conor McGregor." Seven of Duffy's 10 career victories have come via submission, and another standout name on his resume is that of Norman Parke, the TUF: Smashes winner who has gone on to post a 3-0-1 UFC record.

"I understand that in the States and around the sport, I'm ‘the guy who beat Conor,'" Duffy said. "But there's more to my career than that and I'm ready to pick up where I left off."

So how, exactly, did Duffy find himself on the outside looking in during the Golden Age of Irish MMA? Well, for one thing, he had to sit out awhile after suffering a badly broken hand in his first career loss, an upset against Ivan Musardo in a Nov. 2011 bout to fill the vacant Cage Warriors lightweight title.

Once healed, his combat sports career took a left turn. Duffy, who trains in London, was talked into a pro boxing career, where he racked up a 7-0 pro record.

"One of my trainers in London basically sat me down and said, with my hand speed, I should give boxing a try, that I might go even farther in boxing than I did in MMA," said Duffy. "I decided to see where it would take me."

But as Duffy dedicated himself to the Sweet Science, that little nagging doubt began to creep into his head. Guys like McGregor and Parke began to acquit themselves quite well on the big stage. These were guys he both finished in the first round. Was he missing out on his true calling?

Ultimately, Duffy decided he didn't want to go through life asking himself "what if."

"I enjoy boxing, but mixed martial arts has always been my true love and my passion," Duffy said. "And I can admit, yeah, when I looked around and saw the success that guys like Conor and Norman and others were experiencing, knowing what I was able to achieve, well, it probably would have regretted it for the rest of my days if I never went back and gave it a real go."

Does Duffy eventually have eyes on following those he's already vanquished to the UFC? Well, he's trying not to focus too much on the future at the moment. Duffy has been out of action for three years and his opponent, Lapulis, has competed seven times in the past 10 months alone, compiling a 5-1-1 record in that span.

But still, it doesn't hurt to have goals.

"I've got five fights in Cage Warriors," Duffy said. "We're the top name in European MMA and we're seen internationally with an audience of millions. When those five fights are up? Sure, there are plenty of opportunities all over the world. But I'll cross that bridge when I get there."