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29th Jun 2016

EXCLUSIVE: Joe Duffy on his unhealthy love of bloody battles in the Octagon

Irish warrior

Darragh Murphy

What do they put in the water at Tristar?

The Montreal gym is world-renowned for producing fighters with a number of common traits such as unpredictable level changes, stiff jabs and an uncanny ability to absorb punishment.

Firas Zahabi, one of the most respected mixed martial arts coaches in the world, has worked alongside some of the greatest talents ever to grace the Octagon and while his technical and tactical nous is second to none, his ability to cultivate a never-say-die toughness in his students is perhaps his most valuable hallmark.

Georges St-Pierre displayed a champion’s mindset and seldom-required grittiness to just about get over the line against Johny Hendricks in his last fight before vacating his welterweight title and Rory MacDonald’s sanguinary scrap with Robbie Lawler is already the stuff of legend.


The most recent Tristar disciple to exhibit a warrior’s spirit in the UFC is none other than Donegal’s Joe Duffy who withstood a ferocious storm from Dustin Poirier to take the lightweight tilt the distance in January.

The back-and-forth fight featured a broken nose for Poirier, a swollen-shut left eye for Duffy and a series of smiling conversations on the mat while the 155 lbers beat the snot out of one another.

“I do enjoy those kinds of fights,” Duffy admitted to SportsJOE. “I don’t know how healthy that is but I probably enjoy them a bit too much.

Joe Duffy Croke Park

“I’ve tried to get away from thinking like that because, at the end of the day, our job is to win and when you lose you only take home half the paycheck.

“But in my heart, I love those wars and as much as I try to fight a bit more sensibly, it’s just who I am.”

Irish Joe ended up losing the fight on all judges’ scorecards but it could have gone much differently had there been an extra couple of seconds on the clock as the former Cage Warriors stand-out sunk in the tightest of triangles at the very death before Poirier was saved by the bell.

“I just needed a bit more time but, without a doubt, I’m confident in my finishing ability,” Duffy said.  “My record speaks for itself when it comes to triangle finishes (Duffy has four) and with just a bit more time, I feel I would have gotten the finish against Dustin.

“But all the ifs and buts are irrelevant. I didn’t have time on the night and Dustin deserved the win.”

Duffy UFC

After the defeat, Duffy’s first in five years and only second in his professional career, the Donegal native didn’t take the time to mope around feeling sorry for himself.

That’s neither allowed under Firas Zahabi’s tutelage, nor a part of the fabric of Duffy’s genetic makeup.

“It’s always tough,” Duffy explained. “Losses are never going to be easy to take and they shouldn’t be.

“But the more time you dwell on defeats, the more time you’re wasting.

“For me, I just had to go back to what I consider normal. I got back in the gym, I got back to work and starting trying to improve. You can either run from a problem or face it head-on and I’m not the type of person who runs.”

Joe Duffy McGregor Aldo

At the point that Poirier vs. Duffy was initially scheduled, ‘The Diamond’ was the 12th ranked fighter in the UFC at 155 lbs while Duffy is still yet to break into the top fifteen at lightweight.

And while Duffy concedes that he may have been rushed along after bursting on to the scene with two first round UFC finishes in 2015, he doesn’t regret taking the fight.

He said: “Obviously it all moved so fast and you can look at it that way (being rushed).

“But if I hadn’t taken the fight then I wouldn’t have known and if I did end up winning then it would have looked like a great decision.

“I’m the type of person who prefers to go with it and if it turns out to be the wrong decision then so be it. You learn from it.”

The Donegal fighter, who went 7-0 as a professional boxer in 2013, will look to get right back in the win column when he meets Canadian submission specialist Mitch Clarke on the Thursday of international fight week and while he’s solely focused on Clarke, Duffy admits he wouldn’t turn down a rematch with Poirier down the line.

“I think anyone who is competitive has that mentality of getting losses back,” he said.

“Maybe that will come down the line because, even if I beat Mitch, the rematch doesn’t make the most sense this soon. If we cross paths in a few years, though, it’s definitely something that I’m interested in.

“Mitch Clarke is all that’s on my mind right now. I’ve seen quite a lot of him and I’m looking forward to the fight.

“I definitely feel it’s a fight that will go for the later rounds and I can’t see it being finished before the third.

“With Mitch’s toughness, I know I’m going to be in for a war of a fight.”

Luckily for Duffy, that’s just what he adores.

Watch Joe in action at UFC Fight Night: Dos Anjos vs. Alvarez live on BT Sport (part of the Setanta package in Republic of Ireland) from 3am IST on Friday 8th July, or catch the Prelims on UFC Fight Pass from 11:30pm IST on Thursday 7th July