Thursday 18 January 2018

John Kavanagh Exclusive: Forget ‘Irish’ Joe Duffy, it should be ‘The Last Man to Beat McGregor’ Duffy

Conor McGregor with Hector O hEochagain and John Kavanagh, Conor's trainer at the Wright Venue in Swords. Picture: Arthur Carron
Conor McGregor with Hector O hEochagain and John Kavanagh, Conor's trainer at the Wright Venue in Swords. Picture: Arthur Carron

Tom Rooney

It’s exceedingly rare when SBG head coach John Kavanagh and his most famous pupil don’t see eye to eye on matters of unarmed combat.

However, when it comes to the outcome of the headlining bout between Joseph Duffy and Dustin Poirier at the 3Arena on Saturday night, they’ve made vastly differing predictions.

Given that he has fought them both, McGregor and, of course, his mentor, are hugely familiar with the strengths and weaknesses possessed by Duffy and Poirier, who will face off in a five round lightweight contest.

Though the bouts in question, which took place almost four years apart, yielded significantly different results for the UFC interim featherweight champion.

Donegal native Duffy is arguably still best known for being the last man to better McGregor, which he did in stunning fashion by submitting the Dubliner in just 38 seconds at Cage Warriors 39 in November 2010.

The incessant dwelling on the bout however does a large disservice to both men, given how their careers have unfolded in the interim.

McGregor has gone to become the marquee name in MMA, while Duffy took a hiatus from the sport to try his hand at professional boxing during which time he amassed a perfect 7-0 record.

He returned to mixed martial arts late last year and quickly picked up two wins in Cage Warriors before the UFC came knocking. He’s destroyed his subsequent pair of opponents with the world’s largest organisation, both in the first round; Jake Lindsey by TKO and Ivan Jorge via submission.

Now, like McGregor was last year, Duffy has been asked to headline an event in his homeland in just his third outing with the company.

Speaking exclusively to, SGB coach Kavanagh says that Duffy’s current position was expedited due to his history with McGregor, but admires his fighting prowess and says he will have too much vim and vigour for the more battle-hardened Poirier. However, there is a caveat.

“It’s no mystery why he’s after getting in that position,"he said while speaking at last night’s The Takeover Q and A; Powered by Reebok at the Wright Venue. “He’s had two good wins for sure, but he’s the last man to beat McGregor. Forget ‘Irish’ Joe Duffy, it should be ‘The Last Man to Beat McGregor’ Duffy.

“He’s done very well out of that. I have absolutely nothing against Joe; I think he’s a good a fighter and this will be a big step up in both competition and feeling what media requirements are like in the week leading up to it.

“It’s kind of nice being hidden in the prelims; show up, fight and go home. He seems a clam, very thoughtful person, so he’ll probably be able to handle it but it is different.

“I’m leaning towards Duffy. I think he’ll stop him in the second round with strikes. I think Poirier has been in so many wars at this stage that he just doesn’t have that ability to come forward, walk through shots and give shots.

“He’s a young guy, but in a fairly weathered, war-beaten body. I think Duffy is too fast, too slick and he’ll light him up on the feet, knock him down and finish him by TKO,” he predicted.

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McGregor is inclined to disagree. After his epic homecoming win against Diego Brandao in then O2 Arena last July, the 27-year-old was matched with Poirier, who many believed would derail what was being described as the McGregor hype train.

It did not pan out that way. In the lead up to UFC 178, McGregor, in his own inimitable fashion, berated Poirier at every turn. Which resulted in the American being rendered over emotional and psychologically exhausted by the time they squared off.

'The Notorious ' won by TKO in just shy of two minutes, and Poirier left the 145lbs division to try his luck at lightweight, where he has recorded consecutive KO/TKO victories.

McGregor believes that the insight Poirier has gained from their heated, if brief rivalry may give him a mental edge over the slightly green Duffy.

“People break under the spotlight but when they come through it, they come through it stronger,” he said.

“That’s what you’ve seen with Dustin. He’s on a good win streak and he’s experienced it in its most intense form.

“I’ve fought them both, but I don’t know. I’m interested, because like I said, it’s not just about training and fighting. There’s a whole lot more, and I feel Joe is understanding that now, so we’ll see how he feels in there.

“I would lean towards Dustin, not skill wise because they’re both good, solid fighters. I don’t really pay attention to skill, I pay attention to up here (pointing to his head). When I see what is happening, I can put myself in their position and I feel Dustin is the fresher man.

"Dustin is the more experienced man in this environment and I think it will be a good, close contest,” he said.

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