Joseph Duffy strode into the UFC last year with plenty of hype around him.
That the Donegal man had a professional boxing background yet possessed more submission wins than knockouts – 8 vs 3 – was an impressive statistic to fight fans who hadn’t seen him compete before. While anyone who had sampled his talents knew that he was every bit as well rounded as those facts suggested.
Duffy was also coming off of a spectacular KO in his previous fight, one that had done the rounds online.
Of course, more central to the hype than all of that was his prior win over Conor McGregor.
‘Irish Joe’ had submitted his countryman in just 38 seconds at a Cage Warriors event back in November of 2010. This was a pretty big deal considering that, at the time of Duffy’s arrival to MMA’s grandest stage, McGregor was already well on his way to becoming the biggest star in the sport.
However, just 18 months on from his promotional debut, Duffy could be headed toward the exit.
“I’m not close at all [to signing a new deal],” Duffy, who has only one fight remaining on his existing UFC contract, told Paul Dollery of the42.ie recently.
It’s not that things haven’t gone well for him inside the octagon. The 28-year-old lightweight is, after all, 3-1 since joining the promotion and his sole defeat came against a highly-regarded opponent – Dustin Poirier – in an entertaining scrap. Rather, the possibility of a departure has arisen because of his displeasure with the financial incentives on offer.
“I have been offered a new contract to sign but I don’t feel like I’m valued,” said Duffy. “The negotiation seems to be a case of take it or leave it.”
“I’m not asking for a massive increase, just what I believe I’m worth as a professional mixed martial artist. It’s definitely looking like I will be testing free agency, but not by choice.”
“I feel that I’ve done what’s been asked of me from the UFC by putting on exciting fights and always going for the finish. I feel the fans appreciate that.”
The talented Tristar representative also revealed that he had turned down the most recent opponent proposed to him by UFC matchmakers, even though the bout would have taken place on the November Fight Night card in Belfast. His reason? The fight wasn’t likely to progress his career.
“Of course I’d be very disappointed to miss the Belfast card but I just feel that the fight I was offered didn’t make sense,” he said. “There was no real upside to the fight for me. With it being the last fight on my contract, I feel there’s no benefit for me in taking it.”
“I want names that mean something and I’m ready to start my training camp as soon as that happens. If it’s Belfast then it’s Belfast, if not then so be it.”
Whether it’s in the Northern Irish capital or elsewhere, Duffy must fight one more time to fulfill his contractual obligations. Were he to become available after that, the 17-fight pro would probably receive an offer from North America’s second most reputable MMA outfit, Bellator.
He would be a welcome addition to Bellator’s lightweight division, which has some recognisable names, such as Benson Henderson, Nate Diaz conqueror Josh Thompson and champion Michael Chandler for him to face, but suffers from a real lack of depth.
Duffy would also be a good acquisition considering the promotion has recently shown ambitions of expansion into European markets.
In April, Bellator held an event in Torino, Italy and July marked it’s first venture to the U.K, with Bellator 158 taking place at London’s O2 Arena. Duffy would provide the company with an ideal headline attraction if they have any aspirations of heading for neighbouring, MMA mad Ireland.