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Dublin: 16 °C Friday 19 April, 2019
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Joe Duffy: 'It's only a matter of time before all this stuff comes back to bite him in the ass'

The UFC lightweight is putting his Dublin nightmare behind him.

HEADLINING AN EVENT in his own country was the perfect scenario for Joe Duffy, but fighting on a pay-per-view card at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas isn’t a bad alternative.

Duffy was scheduled to face Dustin Poirier in the main event at UFC Fight Night 76 in Dublin just ten days ago. However, the Donegal native was withdrawn by UFC officials on medical grounds after it emerged that he sustained a concussion in training a week before the bout was due to take place at the 3Arena.

2098503940 Source: INPHO/Cathal Noonan

It was a bitter pill to swallow for the highly-regarded lightweight. Having only joined the UFC earlier this year, being billed as the main attraction for a sold-out event on Irish soil was the stuff of dreams for the 27-year-old.

It wasn’t meant to be for Duffy, but he’ll eventually get the chance to test himself against Poirier on 2 January, with the pair scheduled for a belated battle at UFC 195. Tomorrow, Duffy will return to Montreal — where he’s now based — to begin his preparations, having spent the past week-and-a-half with family and friends on this side of the Atlantic.

“It was a hard few days before the fight was supposed to happen, but with the date lined up I can get right back into it. As soon as the date is lined up again it gives you something to focus on,” Duffy told The42 today as he reflected on his Dublin disappointment.

“After the fights are over you always get this kind of empty feeling. You don’t know what to do with yourself. Having the date makes it easier for me to get stuck into it again when I head back tomorrow.”

Duffy’s not overjoyed at the prospect of missing out on his Christmas Day dinner and dessert while he cuts his weight for a fight that will take place eight days later, but if that’s what’s required to ensure that he still has the opportunity to catapult himself into the 155lbs division’s rankings, it’s a sacrifice he’s more than willing to make.

“I worked over Christmas for my dad one year and it was for good money, but I said ‘never again’ afterwards,” he said. “Cutting weight over Christmas won’t be fun but I’m just glad to have a chance to get my head back into training.

“The fact that the fight is in Vegas kind of softened the blow as well. To fight in Ireland would have been top-drawer, but there won’t be another event in Ireland for the coming months so Vegas isn’t a bad wee change.”

It was a blow Duffy sustained in his very final sparring session at Montreal’s Tristar Gym which resulted in the postponement of the bout against Poirier. In spite of a measure of criticism that was subsequently levelled at Duffy and his team, the former Cage Warriors star insists that they wouldn’t have done anything differently.

Duffy: “It was just an accident, really. I always try to keep things the same leading up to every fight. If you’re trying to be too careful I find that you’ll end up getting injured anyway, because you’re not doing things as you normally would.

“Even if it had happened weeks earlier — within 30 days — I still wouldn’t have been able to fight anyway.

“You can’t stop sparring for four weeks before the fight so it wouldn’t have made any difference. It was just tough, given that I had gone through the whole camp and it happened in the last spar.

“It’s not something I’ve experienced before. I think the only time I had to pull out of a fight before was when I was signed for The Ultimate Fighter, so it was a new thing for me. I was getting a bit of flak but I expected it.

“People paid good money and — looking at it from a positive point of view — they were looking forward to the fight. There was always going to be a bit of flak but you’ve got to have a thick skin in this game and take the good with the bad.”

Some of that criticism came from UFC interim featherweight champion Conor McGregor, one of Duffy’s former opponents. McGregor was quick to express his thoughts via Twitter after news of Duffy’s withdrawal emerged, which has only served to increase the rivalry between the two Irish stars.

“That didn’t surprise me in the least,” said Duffy. “Any opportunity Conor gets to have a little dig, he’s going to have one. We know what his beef is. He’s still got that thorn in his side over me beating him.

“If Conor is willing to kick a man when he’s down it says more about him than it does about me. As always, I’ll leave him to it and do my own thing. His opinion doesn’t really matter. I don’t really care what he has to say.

“It’s only a matter of time before all this stuff comes back to bite him in the ass. If we fight, I’ll do my talking in the octagon. I’ll prove it on the night, not on Twitter.”

Duffy’s opponent, Dustin Poirier, was equally disappointed that the fight didn’t go ahead. However, Duffy says that there are no hard feelings between the pair and that they’re both relieved that the fight will eventually take place — albeit 10 weeks behind schedule.

Duffy: “I spoke to Dustin. He’s a true pro. He knows the fight game, he’s been around it for a long time. I explained the situation to him and he was quite excited to get the fight rescheduled as well. I’m thankful to Dustin that we’ve managed to do that.”

Instead of taking centre stage in the octagon at UFC Dublin, Duffy watched the action from his ringside seat. That’s when the disappointment of the events of earlier that week really began to hit home.

UFC 185 Mixed Martial Arts Source: AP/Press Association Images

“That was probably the hardest bit,” he admitted. “Sitting there on the night and you can hear the fans, the noise and how intense it was, it was difficult because I knew I should have been a part of it instead of watching it.

“I was really looking forward to hearing my song and walking out into the arena — really looking forward to it  – and that’s before we even mention the fight, so that was tough.”

Joe Duffy faces Dustin Poirier at UFC 195 on 2 January. Better late than never.

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Paul Dollery

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