The Man Who Beat The Man – Joseph Duffy ahead of CWFC 70

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In 2011, Joseph Duffy was one of the most celebrated MMA fighters on the European scene. Following a loss to Ivan Musardo at Cage Warriors 44, Duffy turned his attention away from MMA and focused his energy on professional boxing.

Now, returning to the sport after a three year absence, the Donegal man has created more headlines and has garnered more media attention than ever before due to his wins over Irish standouts Conor McGregor and Norman Parke.

“It’s weird to come back and get so much attention,” he said. “It was a lot quieter when I was originally fighting for Cage Warriors. There weren’t as many interviews and things but I think it’s great for the sport. The more publicity the sport is given, the more it’s going to grow.

“Seeing how well Conor and Norman are doing did put thoughts in my head like what if I did stay? I suppose it was a factor in making the move back, but it’s one of them things. If you think about what other people are doing too much you never really concentrate 100 per cent on your own thing. It was one of them questions that made me think about what could have been but I’m back now to answer them for myself.

“The opportunities that Cage Warriors can give you now are amazing. MMA in general is a lot more of a competitive environment with the likes WSOF, Bellator and One FC. There’s far more opportunities in the sport.

“I remember just watching Cage Warriors as a fan after I had left and realising that the whole landscape had changed, there’s massive difference in everything.”

So dominant in his early career, Duffy contemplated how he will weigh up against the new breed of CWFC fighters and insisted that the latest version of himself has much improved since his last MMA outings.

He said: “It’s very interesting to think of how I will perform compared to my last MMA fights. Obviously, the standard of fighters has increased considerably, but I think my level has definitely gone up by about 50 per cent.

“My game has just improved so much, I definitely feel like I’ve moved forward a lot, but the game’s moved forward to. I feel like I have to catch up a bit.”

Amassing an impressive pro boxing record of 7-0 in his MMA absence, the Irish lightweight commented on how his isolated pugilistic training has improved his game.

“My time as a professional boxer is the key component to what has changed my game. There are so many fine details that I’ve gone into that I would’ve never seen before. Little things that I’ve always struggled with and I never knew how to fix have been addressed. There is a massive difference from when MMA fans last saw me, they should notice a big difference in my stand up.

“Head movement, shot selection, seeing the openings, defence – there’s just so much that I’ve learned. Defence was probably the most important thing for me to get an understanding of, but I’ve improved my footwork a lot too which should play a big part,” he said

Duffy, who famously put the last blemishes on both McGregor’s and Parke’s record via submission, spoke of how he is not too worried about the grappling assault of French submission specialist, Damien Lapilus, despite his time away from the mats ahead of their bout on Saturday night.

“I’m not worried about my opponent’s ground game. When I first started back my grappling was a little bit rusty, but I feel like I’ve got up to speed. I set my self a target with my grappling and I believe I’ve reached it. You can’t worry about things like that, you’ve just got to go in with the tools that you’ve got,” said Duffy.

Although Duffy is making his return to the sport on Saturday night, there is still a question of whether he will continue to pursue his MMA career if he fails to win in The Helix.

“I won’t walk away,” he answered without hesitation. “With boxing it was much harder because it wasn’t my passion, it wasn’t what I loved doing. I was doing MMA when I wasn’t getting paid so regardless of what happens on Saturday night I’m going to be focusing on this sport.”

Furthermore, Duffy highlighted his excitement at being back on the MMA scene:

“It’s so good to be back. It’s more of a media circus now and that has made it a lot more exciting going into the fight. These past two weeks I’ve been really excited to get to Ireland and start my weight cut, I couldn’t wait to get my teeth sunk into it.”

Finally, Duffy gave his thoughts on what way his headline clash will finish.

“I’ve seen it in my head a lot of different ways. I really do feel like I can take this guy out on the feet, I think I’ll catch him with a good shot and that’ll be the one that finishes it.”

@PetesyCarroll

Peter Carroll is Severe MMA's lead feature writer. He has been featured in many top publications and some rubbish ones too. He also writes for the Irish Daily Mirror and Vice's Fightland.