Tuesday 24 April 2018

UFC executive says Joseph Duffy is more reflective of Irish people than Conor McGregor

Conor McGregor UFC featherweight champion
Conor McGregor UFC featherweight champion

Tom Rooney

The UFC’s Vice-President of International believes the quietly-spoken Joseph Duffy, who will headline the promotion’s October return to Dublin, has more in common with the average Irish person than Conor McGregor.

Tickets go on general sale on Friday at noon for UFC Fight Night 76, which will be held on October 24 in the 3Arena, and are expected to sell out within minutes, just as they did when MMA’s biggest brand came to Dublin last July.

In just his third promotional outing, Donegal native Duffy has been elevated to main event status, and will close out the show against fellow lightweight Dustin Poirier. With Duffy not living in Ireland since childhood, combined with his reserved demeanour, it was thought that tasking him with being the face of the show was a tad cavalier on the UFC’s part.

Speaking in Dublin, Joe Carr, who works primarily on ensuring the UFC’s continued global expansion, acknowledged that banking on Duffy may have been a gamble, but a calculated one, given what a resounding success the 2014 event had been.

“Was it a risk because he (Duffy) wasn’t a big name? Yeah,” he said. “But we knew going in how successful the event was last year. If you bought a ticket last year and went to that event and had that experience, there’s no way you were not coming back. On top of that, you had the rest of the population that got exposed to the UFC over the last year, and now they want a piece of the action.”

Of course, UFC Fight Night 46 was closed out by Conor McGregor-also in his third fight for the company- after returning from an injury-induced year long layoff. His popularity, which had been doubted prior to that point by many unfamiliar with sport, was duly confirmed when  he finished off Diego Brandao and the capacity crowd erupted accordingly.

McGregor went on to become the interim featherweight champion and arguably the UFC’s biggest star, and subsequently he, and his unmistakable personality, are now too significant for anything other than a stadium event on Irish soil. However, Carr, a Bostonian with deep roots in Ireland, reckons Duffy more accurately reflects the Irish populous and their cousins across the pond.

“Being of Irish decent and growing up in an Irish community, I feel like, when push comes to shove, the Irish people identify more with a personality type like Joe Duffy than they do with Conor McGregor.

“Conor is larger than life, and he’s probably well more liked than hated, but deep down that strong, silent go-about-your-business is more of an Irish personality type, in my personal opinion. And, I think the Irish people, and the Americans, can very much identify with that.”

Duffy is the last man to beat McGregor, having submitted the Dubliner in less than minute at Cage Warriors 39 in 2010. And, the latter, in his own inimitable style, described him as nothing more than a journeyman, as recently as this week. No doubt, this will have further fuelled the desire to see the pair resume hostilities in the not too distant future, preferably at Croke Park.

Conor McGregor after his feather weight bout victory over Dustin Poirier in Las Vegas
Conor McGregor after his feather weight bout victory over Dustin Poirier in Las Vegas

Carr could not guarantee the UFC’s presence in Dublin on an annual basis, but did say that Ireland will now always be considered when they are scheduling dates in Europe.

“At the end of the day, there’s nothing better than selling out an arena. Is the arena (3Arena) probably a little small for us? Yeah, because we probably could 15,000 thousand tickets in a heartbeat, as supposed to nine or 10.

“Knowing that you’re going to sell out is very comforting, because not every market is that easy. We’re not going to say we’re going to come back every year, but when we build our calendar, talking about 2016, probably doing five or six events, Dublin is right in that mix.”

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