Left in the debris of Conor McGregor’s continued celebration this past weekend in Boston was one of the intriguing signings the UFC made. That was of Irish-born fighter Joseph Duffy, more commonly known in 2015 as the "Last Man to Defeat the ‘Notorious’ Conor McGregor." He will make his UFC debut in March against the Brazilian Vagner Rocha in Dallas.
Duffy defeated McGregor a little over four years ago in a Cage Warriors fight in Cork, Ireland. The encounter lasted only 38 seconds, as Duffy tapped him out with an arm-triangle choke. It goes down as historic, because McGregor has won 13 straight fights since then. He galvanized the UFC’s featherweight division, personally brought the UFC back to Ireland, and sold out Boston on Sunday night in a fight with Dennis Siver.
What is it like to be the last guy to defeat a burgeoning icon in the game, who has since gone on to lay waste to everyone that has been put in front of him? What’s it like to be known as the "Last Man To Defeat Conor McGregor?"
"Obviously it’s not ideal," Duffy told Ariel Helwani during an appearance on The MMA Hour on Tuesday. "That’s not how I’d like to be known. I’m excited to get started in the UFC and obviously pave my own way. And hopefully, finger’s crosses, I can put in good performances and people will remember me for my future performances than my past performances."
Duffy, who now lives in London, England but is relocating to Montreal to train with Tristar for his UFC debut, has put together a solid 12-1 pro MMA record, as well as a 7-0 record in boxing. Now that he’s solely focused on MMA, he’s looking to create his own identity in the game that McGregor took by storm.
Nevertheless, coming in he has the feather in his cap of beating McGregor back in the day. And that people still talk about that fight from 2010 is proof of just how crazy the MMA world is for McGregor he says.
"Yeah, obviously every fight we’re looking to win," Duffy said. "It goes to prove the level that Conor’s gone to when people make such a big deal really. It’s a credit to how well he’s doing."
McGregor is tentatively slated to fight for the featherweight title against Jose Aldo in May, which will go down as the biggest smaller class bout MMA has had. With Duffy currently joined at the hip to McGregor’s biographical details, he was asked if he was pulling for McGregor to dethrone Aldo.
"I wouldn’t say for that reason," Duffy said. "Obviously I’m rooting for him. I think you can see with all the Irish fighters, they all seem to be quite tight in supporting each other. I think what better than to see an Irish world champion? It’s great for the sport, and it’s great for the country, and I think later on down the line it’ll bring all the youngsters, finger’s crossed, who want to have a bright future in the sport?"
Asked if he had any idea when he stood across from McGregor back in Cage Warriors that he would become the sensation he is now, Duffy said no.
"When I fought him, I knew he was good straight away," he said. "I can’t say that I knew he would get to this level and blow up so quick to the point where he brings the UFC to Ireland singlehandedly. I wouldn’t say I knew he’d be this big, but I knew after fighting him that he had the potential to go far.
"I would say that he had the self belief in his from Day 1. He’s obviously a showman, and I think that stayed with him throughout his career."
After McGregor beat Siver at UFC Fight Night 59, he was asked about the UFC signing Duffy in the post-fight press conference. McGregor said that they fought in a different era, but that in the construction of pay-per-view numbers and intriguing fights that sell, a Duffy rematch would be one of them.
"Let’s say Jose p*ssies out and doesn’t show up in Vegas," McGregor said. "Let’s bring in the last man to beat Conor McGregor. I mean, that sell as well. To be honest, I signed Joseph, yeah? I actually looked and though, well if somebody pulls out Joseph can slide in. But Joseph is a good guy, but it was a different era. If that fight presents itself, you best believe I want that fight."
Duffy, who comes into the UFC as a lightweight, said that he’d be open to seeing McGregor again himself, should the opportunity come up.
"Yeah, of course," he said. "We’re both in the fight business and that’s our job. Our job’s to fight, and now ask too many questions. So, you know, if that fight came up down the line, then yeah, definitely. Who doesn’t want to be fighting one of the top guys in the world?"