On Saturday night ‘Irish’ Joe Duffy will headline the UFC Fight Pass prelims against the good but not top class Reza Madadi. Which begs the question what is Duffy worth to the UFC.
It’s a question we will get the answer to post-Saturday night as the Donegal man will be competing in the final fight of his current UFC contract. Duffy and the organisation couldn’t come to an agreement on a new deal which will now leave the exciting fighter hot property on the free agent market.
UFC have already allowed one seriously talented individual to slip away this year in Kyoji Horiguchi. The Japanese flyweight will be joining Rizin FC after being allowed by the UFC to become a free agent.
It’s hard to comprehend the UFC allowing either one of these two top class martial artists to represent rival companies never mind both. But that’s a very real possibility because what can Joe Duffy show the UFC that he hadn’t already shown them.
Joe holds an impressive 16-2 professional record. 3-1 in the UFC with all his wins coming by way of finishes. His only loss was to top fighter Dustin Poirier in what was a back and forth highly entertaining bloody war.
Which brings us back to the question why have the UFC not this man signed up to a long term deal. Duffy himself believes the UFC are now looking much more at the drama and showmanship side of things when rewarding fighters with lucrative deals.
That’s not Joe Duffy and it’s probably not 90% of the pro fighters out there at the top level. Let’s not forget what martial arts is essentially all about and what most of these athletes have been taught from a young age.
Regardless if you’re from a Taekwondo, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, wrestling or boxing base. The tenets of which they all abide by basically in some way relate to respect, courage, honour, discipline and self-control.
This makes it naturally very difficult for the majority of these athletes who have been practising traditional martial arts their entire lives to suddenly start acting in an unnatural way just to sell fights. It shouldn’t be about that but we all know that unfortunately the numbers don’t lie and the big money spinning pay per views tend to have the more colourful characters involved.
But the UFC need not forget about the die-hard fans who tune in every week to watch the best martial artists in the world compete against each other. Regardless of what might have went on in the press conferences in the build-up.
It’s incredibly rare to find a unique entertaining character who has the elite skill set to match. People like Nick Diaz and Conor McGregor a few and far between. Yes, they should be appreciated but not used as a comparison to measure another fighter’s worth.
Joe Duffy’s worth should be measured on what he has done inside the octagon. And if he gets in there and delivers another show-stopping performance on Saturday night it will be utterly shameful if the UFC let him go.
The cancellation of his Dublin headliner against Poirier was a real stumbling block on the Donegal fighters’ trajectory. What we learned when the two eventually did meet is that Joe is more than capable of competing at that level and on another night could have had the beating of ‘The Diamond’.
Headlining in front of his home fans is where Joe Duffy should be. And fighting against the best in the lightweight division is what is now needed at this stage of his career. Take Conor McGregor out of the equation and he is certainly Ireland’s next best talent and among the best Europe has to offer also.
He would have learned a lot from that defeat to Poirier especially under the guidance of one of the world’s top coaches in Firas Zahabi. The messages coming from the Tri Star Gym is that Joe is constantly improving on every aspect of his game and has even earned the nickname ‘The Irish GSP’.
There is no such thing as an easy fight in the UFC but on Saturday it’s fair to say Duffy is the more talented of the two and should be a big favourite to win. Should he come away with another impressive victory it will be over to the UFC to give him the contract he has earned and the big fights he deserves.
A top ten lightweight should be the first fight on that new and improved offer from the UFC on Sunday morning. Someone like Michael Johnson who has been flirting recently with the elite in the division would be an interesting matchup.
The UFC need to show Joe Duffy that he is a valuable asset to the company. Rory MacDonald and Benson Henderson didn’t feel appreciated and the UFC’s loss was Bellator’s gain. It would be foolish of them to make the same mistake again.
Neál Martin, Pundit Arena