Tom Duquesnoy’s name had been drifting across the Atlantic for years by the time he made his UFC debut in Kansas City on Saturday night, and if his win over Patrick Williams told us anything it was this — he’s the real deal.
Duquesnoy weathered an early barrage from the bigger Williams, and slowly began to dismantle him. By the end of the first round, the “Fire Kid” dropped the already-fatigued Williams with an elbow. Twenty-eight seconds into round two, the fight was over. Duquesnoy showcased the aggressive, fan-friendly style that earned him not only a “must see” reputation in Europe, but titles in both the bantamweight and featherweight divisions in BAMMA.
On Monday, Duquesnoy spoke about that style, which if anything is just reckless enough to raise concerns about its long-term sustainability. Duquesnoy says he hears these concerns all the time, but if he didn’t fight with the abandon he does, he wouldn’t have fans to be concerned for him to begin with.
“You can’t say, ‘yeah, I like you, but I would like you to change to this. Nah,” the 23-year old Frenchman said during an appearance on The MMA Hour. “You can’t say that. But it’s true, I get a lot of KOs, and it’s thanks to my aggressive style. So you can say, yeah but you take too many punches, etc., and yeah that’s a true thing, and it’s stuff I’m going to improve on for sure. But, when I take a punch, it’s because I’m aggressive, and when I’m aggressive with people in the Octagon, that’s when I put a knockout.
“But I thank everyone for the advice. But the true thing is, I’m going to improve my style for the next fight. So I will hit people more and try to still keep my face good for the modeling.”
Duquesnoy, like Alan Jouban, doubles as a model when he’s not fighting, which might feel like double-jeopardy for somebody who earns income based on looks. Yet Duquesnoy said he isn’t overly concerned about that. Right now he is just happy to be fighting in the UFC, some four years after he was first being recruited by Zuffa officials.
All the experience he gathered fighting in Europe — 16 professional fights, half of which occurred in the England-based BAMMA — served him to shine in his first moment at UFC on FOX 24 on Saturday.
As for who the blue-chip bantamweight wants to face his next time out, Duquesnoy didn’t have any specific names. He just wants to gradually grow into the fight game.
“I always want to develop my career considering what I’m feeling right now,” he told Ariel Helwani. “So now I’m feeling good. I’m going to get some vacation and then we’ll see who’s the best opponent, who is available. I’m going to do the thing as I’ve always done in my career, of step-by-step of respecting he process of getting more and more experience — more technical, more ready psychologically. I’m still 23, so I feel like I can improve my style, my physique, and the different areas of the fight.
“You guys will know very soon who will be my next opponent and where will be my next fight.”
With the sudden rise of fellow Frenchman Francis Ngannou in the heavyweight division, the elephant in the room becomes the reality that mixed martial arts in still illegal in France. Duquesnoy, who trains full-time at Jackson-Winkeljohn in Albuquerque, said that he hopes that the emergence of French stars in MMA will help lift the ban in his home country.
“At least I hope it will contribute and I will be on board to help promote and legalize MMA in France,” he said. “Professionally, why it’s interesting to me is because if we do a big UFC event in Paris, I’m sure I will make the place full. So it would be a good thing.
“And also, even if I’m training in the USA right now, I do not forget where I come from. I don’t forget where I’ve met the good people where I’m from. So I get educated, and I developed my life and my career from zero to the age of 18 or 19 in France, now I continue to develop myself in the US, because that’s where the business is. That’s the best place to be.”
As he debuted in the UFC, Duquesnoy wanted to respect both the United States (where he trains) and his native country of France.
“I have the French flag because I’m from France and I want to represent my country, which is a normal thing,” he said. “And now MMA is banned in France, so the reason I wear the U.S. flag is because I respect the country which gives me the opportunity to develop my career, by the UFC. So that’s why I’m wearing the flag. I’m proud of my first country, but also of my country that saved me, and who allowed me to do my pleasure.”
Duquesnoy said it was the judo federation in France that’s preventing MMA from being legalized in the country, in part because they want to “defend their own business.” He said, “they’re scared people will stop judo and go to MMA.”
“They don’t understand one thing in France, it’s that it’s a win-win,” he said. “If MMA’s here, we’ll still need to go to boxing for MMA. We’re going to still need to go do wrestling for MMA. We’ll still need to go do savate and judo too. Because judo, if you adapt it, it can be a really good plus for MMA.
“So that’s what they don’t understand.”