Sunday 17 February 2019

Joe Duffy's return to the Octagon confirmed for March

Donegal MMA star Joe Duffy
Donegal MMA star Joe Duffy

Ronan O'Flaherty

Joe Duffy will finally return to the octagon with a lightweight showdown against Marc Diakiese on the eve of St Patrick's Day.

The Donegal native hasn't fought since suffering a second-round stoppage defeat at the hands of James Vick 14 months ago. For a time, doubt surrounded his future involvement in the UFC, but Duffy has put the speculation to bed by agreeing to the fight with the Congolese-born English fighter.

Once touted as a potential title contender, the Irishman finds himself a considerable distance from such status and, for now, his sole ambition will be to get his career back on track.

As recently as 2017, Diakiese was an exciting fighter who boasted an unblemished 12-0 record. However, his last three fights have all ended in defeat and a fourth consecutive loss would almost certainly see him released by the UFC.

Duffy, who has a notable victory against Conor McGregor to his name, can expect the backing of a large chunk of the crowd inside London's O2 Arena.

The event – UFC Fight Night 147 – will be headlined by a welterweight contest between Merseysider Darren Till and Jorge Masvidal. Till will be attempting to bounce back from his unsuccessful title fight against Tyron Woodley.

Duffy isn't the only fighter of Irish interest on the card. Icelandic welterweight Gunnar Nelson trains under John Kavanagh at Straight Blast Gym in Dublin and he will take on Englishman Leon Edwards in a showdown that will catapult the victor ever-closer to a welterweight title fight.

Following an absence of more than a year, Nelson appears to be making up for lost time. The 30-year-old was last in action less than two months ago, when a gutsy performance against Alex Oliveira saw him return to winning ways following a disappointing defeat at the hands of Santiago Ponzinibbio 17 months earlier.

The London event will be a must-see for Irish fight fans, who have been starved of an Irish presence at the top level of MMA for quite some time. In recent years, Cathal Pendred, Paddy Holohan, Neil Seery and Aisling Daly have all retired.

With Conor McGregor's appearances proving sporadic, the return of Duffy is a welcome one, while it is also encouraging to see that Nelson is fighting regularly once again.

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