If Conor McGregor is suddenly stripped of the UFC lightweight title tomorrow or if he loses the belt upon his long-awaited return to the octagon, we are sure he will still be the most targeted man in MMA.
Why? Because he is the money fight, belt or no belt.
One person who wouldn’t be queuing up for a shot at a beltless McGregor, however, is his countryman and former conqueror Joseph Duffy. Or at least that’s what Duffy claimed, in rather convincing fashion, during a recent interview with Caroline Pearce of BT Sport.
“If he’s got the belt, then of course that’s the fight I want, because that’s the end goal – looking for that belt. But if he hasn’t, I’ve got no reason to chase that fight,” said Duffy.
The Donegal fighter’s next comment is the one that people will probably find most surprising though.
“If anything, it’s something I would like to move away from,” Duffy said. “It’s not something that I’m chasing. I’d rather just go on my own path and if that fight happens, then it happens.”
“Whoever is holding that belt, that’s my priority – working towards that and getting that belt.”
Some might write Duffy’s comments off as hot air, but it’s interesting to hear the Tristar fighter state that he’d prefer to avoid McGregor altogether and take another path to the top.
When he was first brought into the UFC, Duffy was routinely referred to as ‘the last man to beat McGregor.’ His 38-second submission of the SBG star almost five years previous was his main selling point. Not his quality boxing or his dangerous submission game or the aesthetically pleasing professional record he had built.
Of course, Nate Diaz freed Duffy of that double-edged moniker in March of 2016, but his career is still defined by it’s connection to McGregor’s in the eyes of many. The talented 29-year-old is still asked about ‘The Notorious’ one in every interview and during every media scrum. Though this has helped him generate some hype and garner attention that he may not have otherwise been afforded, it must also be quite irritating and even a little offensive to a world class fighter.
One can understand then, why Duffy might want to go another route.
Of course, for the time being, Duffy isn’t really in a position to start calling for a title shot. As silky smooth and simultaneously devastating as he has looked throughout most of his UFC career, ‘Irish Joe’ remains outside the top 15 in the official UFC lightweight rankings and he is only a couple of wins removed from a defeat to Dustin Poirier.
If he can overcome the once-beaten James Vick at UFC 217 in New York this weekend however, Duffy will go a long way toward regaining the significant momentum that he was riding before he collided with Poirier in January of last year.