Joseph Duffy has the substance, but a style much different than Conor McGregor

Joe Duffy (R) fights in his first UFC main event, Saturday, in Dublin.

Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

In 2010, Joseph Duffy took just over a half minute to submit Conor McGregor. In 2011, Duffy himself was submitted. 

That defeat, to Ivan Musardo, was the first loss of the lightweight’s career. He wouldn’t fight again for nearly three years.

Recently, McGregor — now a UFC superstar with a title fight ahead of him in December — denigrated Duffy by claiming that he turned his back on MMA when it got difficult for him. "When I faced defeat, I put my head down and I grinded it and became a two-weight champion in Cage Warriors and a UFC featherweight world champion," he told reporters.

"When he faced defeat he quit the sport and ran."

In fact, McGregor himself admitted to FOX Sports and The Fighter and The Kid podcast that, just two years ago, he had given up the sport and decided to call it quits, before getting his call-up to the UFC. "I was thinking, ‘I don’t think I want to do this. Maybe, maybe this is not for me,’" he remembered telling himself.

For his part, Duffy has won four straight fights, including his first two UFC bouts by way of finishes, since losing in 2011. He also doesn’t mind admitting that he struggled like most other fighters, for a long while, and had to consider his options.

"I would definitely say that there were times I had to evaluate things," he told FOX Sports.

"When I was struggling, money-wise, and training full-time, it wasn’t easy. I wasn’t getting paid to train, and had bills, and a mortgage to pay. It was quite frustrating. I was lucky enough to have parents who helped me and supported me."

It was loved ones like his parents who convinced Duffy that he had too much talent and skill to give up on his MMA dream. "They said, ‘look, you’ve got to be crazy to step away from this,’" he recounted.

"I knew it myself but it can just be hard to get away from the [frustrated] feelings, I suppose. Other than that, my loss on [The Ultimate Fighter] was difficult, but not at any point after that did I think about giving up. It lit a fire in me. My loss in Cage Warriors, I didn’t take too hard, because I knew I gave 100 percent. Ivan stuck in there and got the sub. It was just one of those things. 

"He deserved the win and there was not much more I could do about it other than fixing my hand and getting back to the gym. Everything’s been good since then. There have been difficult times because I was struggling financially, but everything has been good, lately."

It takes a lot more brass to speak candidly about difficult and dark times in one’s life, as McGregor did months ago, and Duffy did just last week, than to boast and brag. Duffy seems secure enough in where he is at now in his career, and where he sees himself going, to open up about previous struggles. 

Duffy’s goals are not as humble, of course. The Irishman likely sees himself as a future champion, and he’s working hard to make that happen.

After his Dublin main event this Saturday against Dustin Poirier, he plans to move full-time to Montreal to continue to train with the TriStar gym. After battling through injuries, uncertainty and losses, Duffy knows what he’s made of, but he doesn’t see a need to rush things.

After his near three-year absence from competition, Duffy fought twice in 2014, and this Saturday’s bout will be his third of 2015. Duffy likes the way things are going for him in the UFC so far and wants to continue to get his footing and improve himself in possibly the promotion’s most talent-rich division.

If he gets a quick path to a world title, like his countryman McGregor, Duffy will take it. He won’t mind taking his time, however.

"Definitely, the second one," he chose.

"Obviously, it has been a pretty active year. I’ll be moving out here full-time after this fight, and I’d like a little time to settle in. I’m going to be mixing it up with top-10 guys if this one goes well, so I’d like a little bit of time to keep working on my game. When the title fights come, I’ll be ready."