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Dublin: 10 °C Tuesday 22 October, 2019

Duffy 'buzzing' for tonight's UFC return after 'dark days' during lengthy lay-off

The Donegal lightweight faces Marc Diakiese, having not competed in the octagon since November 2017.

TONIGHT’S LONG-AWAITED RETURN to UFC action can’t come quickly enough for Joseph Duffy (16-3) — but before he addresses his bout against Marc Diakiese (12-3) at The o2 in London, another sporting contest will have his attention.

Duffy was born in Donegal but spent the majority of his childhood in Wales. When the Welsh host Ireland in the Six Nations this afternoon, there’ll be no doubt about where his allegiances lie.

Joe Duffy (27) Joseph Duffy pictured after his July 2016 win over Mitch Clarke in Las Vegas. Source: Tommy Lakes/The42

“An Ireland win would be a good way to get the day started,” he says. “I’ve got a few people coming up from Wales for the fight, so there’ll be a bit of slagging going on. The match will definitely get me hyped up anyway.”

Duffy expects to be trading blows with Diakiese at approximately 7pm, which should give him enough time to watch the rugby (2.45pm kick-off) before getting warmed up for a fight which will end a frustrating 17-month absence from the octagon.

After recovering from surgery on a shoulder problem, he was scheduled to face Ross Pearson in December. However, Duffy was forced to withdraw when he sustained a rib injury.

The 31-year-old lightweight, who’s based at the Tristar camp in Canada, is now ready to end his longest period of inactivity since he returned to mixed martial arts in 2014 following a spell on the professional boxing circuit. He explains:

Everyone who gets injured has their dark days when you can’t train, especially for me in Montreal. I’m not around my family so I can end up driving myself crazy.

“I still spent time in the gym, helping out in any way I could, and you’d be surprised by how much you learn by just watching people. But it’s definitely a long, hard process when you can’t do what you want to be doing.

“I’m buzzing for it now that I’m back. With this fight, I want to enjoy every second and take it all in. When you’ve been out for as long as I have, it’s important to appreciate what it’s like to be in there.”

Against Diakiese, Duffy will aim to rebound from his second-round TKO defeat to James Vick at Madison Square Garden in November 2017. On the other hand, his opponent will be driven by the prospect of losing his place on the UFC roster. Having previously been undefeated, the 25-year-old Englishman has lost each of his last three bouts.

“He’s dangerous in general — he’s very explosive and can finish you with one shot,” Duffy says of Diakiese, who started his UFC stint with a 3-0 run before seeing his progress halted by Drakkar Klose, Dan Hooker and Nasrat Haqparast.

Mixed Martial Arts 2017: UFC 217 Duffy (left) throws a shot against James Vick at UFC 217. Source: Jason Silva

“The fact that he could be fighting for his career in the UFC obviously makes him that little bit more dangerous. He’ll have that hunger, which I’m sure will make it a tough night’s work for me. But I’ll be prepared to dig deep.”

Duffy will have his own added incentive for tonight’s fight, which will be the penultimate act of UFC London’s preliminary card. In just over a fortnight, he’s due to become a father.

“When you take the sport as seriously as we do at this level, things generally don’t change too much. I’m always training hard, I’ve always got a huge desire to win, I’m very competitive. It doesn’t change any of that,” he says.

But when you have a baby on the way it definitely brings in a different type of hunger because you’ve got a little bit more to fight for.”

Duffy hopes tonight’s outing can spark the beginning of a run of wins to help him climb the lightweight ladder. However, he’ll no longer obsess about mapping his way to the top.

Having fallen short in his two UFC bouts against current members of the Top 15 rankings in the 155-pound division — James Vick and Dustin Poirier — he hasn’t looked beyond Marc Diakiese since the fight was booked.

“I’ve had that in my head before — ‘I have to get into the rankings, I have to get into the rankings’ — but all I’m thinking about now is winning one fight at a time,” says Duffy, who has picked up three of his four UFC wins inside the first round.

“I’ve only been focusing on the next fight and that’s the way I’m going to continue to do it from now on. One foot in front of the other, and as long as I leave my best in there every time, I won’t have any complaints.”

Headlined by a welterweight bout between Darren Till and Jorge Masivdal, the televised portion of tonight’s UFC London card will be broadcast live on BT Sport 1 from 6pm. Early prelims are available from 5pm on UFC Fight Pass.

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Paul Dollery

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