Just seven seconds and a few well-guided punches is all it took for UFC newcomer Todd Duffee to make history in the Octagon. A prior record of 5-0 with all of his victories coming from strikes, there were many that had high hopes for the just twenty-three year old knockout artist, but few that expected for his UFC debut to end as suddenly, and as violently as it did.
Duffee is a part of the new generation of heavyweights that seem to be taking the division by storm. Much like heavyweights such as Shane Carwin and Brock Lesnar, Todd was just genetically put together differently than the average man. Imagine “the really big guy” at your local high school; That was Todd.
“When I left high school I was about 260 pounds, but I went into high school at 6’1″ and over 200 pounds,” said Duffee in an exclusive conversation with FiveOuncesOfPain.com. “I was always the big kid in school. I started growing really fast at like ten or eleven years old.”
With just five fights under his belt at the time, the still developing pupil of mixed martial arts didn’t want anyone to think he got a free ride to the UFC, or that he was granted a favor from someone. Duffee knew he could swim with the sharks, he just wanted to prove that he belonged in the ocean with them.
“I wasn’t so much hesitant to sign with the UFC, but what I didn’t want was to be one of those young guys coming in without a lot of experience, and then get that backlash of hate because nobody respects you,” explained the Indiana born heavyweight. “I wanted to come in already a proven fighter. Also, for myself, I just wanted to make sure that I deserved it. I knew in the gym that I earned it, I had put my time in, but I really wanted people to know that I earned that spot. That I wasn’t a TUF guy, or that kind of deal. Or that I didn’t get there because of the way I looked, or any of that.”
Even though Duffee had faced off with, and toppled top opposition before in Assuerio Siva, the match-up between the two took place in Brazil, and nothing can prepare you for the bright lights of the UFC. In what should surely be viewed as a good omen, Todd experienced non of the infamous “pre-UFC jitters” that have overcome more than a few talented fighters in the past, as he would reveal,”I think I get more nerves in the weeks I spend training leading into the fight as compared to the week of the fight. The week of this fight was one of the more relaxing weeks I’ve had in a year. The whole theme of the week before the fight was “Let’s see if all of this hard work pays off”. I didn’t have anything to worry about outside of making sure that I’m mentally prepared to do what I’ve been doing. I knew that I put the work in so I was just very comfortable. The closer the fight got, the more comfortable I got. The only time I got any kind of rush out of it, or got any type of adrenaline was when I was first introduced to the crowd at the weigh-ins. I was like,’Wow’, I’ve never had that type of reception before.
“Other than that I was just getting calmer and calmer, even when I got into the cage, which usually isn’t very typical. Usually I’m nervous until I get in the cage, but I wasn’t really nervous the entire time leading into this one. I was even calmer. I was like,’Alright, let’s do this’. Actually I even had to hit myself in the face a few times once I got in the cage just to make sure that I was jacked up. It’s not that I wasn’t motivated, I just didn’t have a lot of that nervous energy that I’m used to, but I can’t complain with the results.”
And while the breakout performance would be enough to satisfy most men looking to stand out amongst the increasingly stacked UFC heavyweight division, Duffee would be lying if he didn’t admit that it left a certain empty feeling in his stomach following the bout. He was hoping for a war.
“It wasn’t even thirty seconds prior to the knockout that we were sitting there, ready to go, and I looked in his eyes and I could see that he came to fight three good rounds,” said the 6’3″, 250 pound up and comer. “It was very apparent in his demeanor as well. He even said to me before the fight,”Man, let’s put on a good show”, and I said ,’Don’t worry, I plan on it’. Not in an arrogant way, but to let him know that I had the same thought in my mind. I think we were both going for fight of the night. I just expected it because of the way we matched up. It could have gone either way, but I obviously wanted to come out on top.”
Joe Rogan made a point during the broadcast of UFC 102 to explain that Duffee shook his head “no” when Hague reached out to him just before the opening bell to see if a “pre-touch of gloves” formality would be necessary. According to Todd, it’s nothing personal, touching gloves is just silly, explaining,”I don’t ever touch gloves. Ever. I don’t believe in it. I think it’s the silliest thing in the world. I’ve touched gloves one time in my career, when I accidentally hit someone in the groin, but that’s about it. Although maybe during the staredown I would, if they wanted to, just to not be rude, but I don’t think you should touch gloves. I think it’s silly. I’ve seen guys get cold cocked from touching gloves more than once.”
In retrospect, if there had been a touch of gloves a new fastest knockout record in the UFC would have been extremely unlikely. So off they went, without a touch of gloves, and just seconds into the bout Hague was levelled with a stiff left jab directly to the chin. In the heat of the moment, Todd fully admits he had no clue that Hague was in any type of trouble.
“I thought he fell to be honest,” revealed Duffee. “Because the way he through that hook, it just looked to me like he was off balance and fell. When I came down on him and starting throwing punches it seemed like I landed the second one and I saw him turn away. I saw that he was like,”Oh s***”, and it made me realize that he was rocked from the get-go. That’s when I started winding up with my punches and looking for the finish.”
Perhaps the scariest aspect of the highlight reel finish was the fact that Duffee is right handed. Has been for as long as he can remember. If you watch closely, the two punches that do the most damage in the bout with Hague came from the left hand.
“I have power in both hands,” said the lead fisted athlete. “Not to say that I’m going to be knocking people out with my left every time, but I definitely have power in both hands. I would say that I have more power in my right hand though, because I’m a right handed fighter most of the time. It was just the angle I was trying to land the rights with, and both of those lefts landed square on his chin. I watched the jab follow all the way through to his chin, and I felt the last one go straight through. I could feel it land right on the corner of his chin.
“Where the punch lands matters more than the power anyway. You can hit a guy in the forehead a hundred times as hard as you want, but you hit him with the right shot and it doesn’t matter.”
As Duffee made a point of earlier; he just wanted for people to feel like he belonged in the UFC. After last Saturday evening’s performance I feel like there are few that would argue against it. However, does Todd feel like he is deserving of his current position in the spotlight? The answer may surprise you, as the ever-humble gladiator would explain,”Do I agree that I belong in the UFC? Yeah. But with the amount of hype I’m receiving, no. The amount of hype I’ve been getting is almost too much. Nobody can really judge a seven second performance no matter what happens either way. No one can judge Tim Hague for that, and no one can judge me for that. All they could say is that he’s fast, and he has a stiff jab. So have I earned to be in the UFC? Yeah. I felt like I earned that a while ago. But have I earned this hype? No, not at all. Am I mad about it? No, because it helps me get a fan base. I’m going to accept it with a smile, don’t get me wrong. I’m definitely not complaining. I just think that realistically it’s being blown out of proportion a little bit. Just because it’s a record of some kind, but it’s just a statistic. I don’t know, if I would have went out there and had a war and received the same hype it would have been alright.
“All I did is I went out there and did what I do, and I’m not saying I got lucky, but I think maybe my karma finally payed off for me.”
Perhaps the most important aspect taken from the discussion with Todd is that regardless of the expectations that may be put over his head in the future, at such a young age, he’s still just blossoming in this fight game, and he knows it. With a level head, explosive knockout power, and the type of athletic ability rarely seen with the big boys, Todd Duffee is without a doubt a benefit to the already talent filled UFC heavyweight division.
There will be no celebration for Todd this time around. There will come a time to celebrate in the future, but for now, it’s back to the drawing board.
“I’m headed to the gym right now as we speak,” admitted Duffee. “I took my few days off, and now I’m going to slowly get back in a groove and get straight. I have to develop. I’m only twenty-three right now. How good I am right now is not how good I plan on being in three months, or a year.
“I have a lot left to prove. I know I have a lot more to show, but I feel like I have a lot left to prove, and a lot to live up to now.”