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VANCOUVER – On his fourth interview of the day, Todd Duffee’s patience wore thin.
Pre-fight interviews are usually where UFC fighters talk about training, opponents and other personal events that take place in between bouts. Duffee touched on a few of those topics on Wednesday when he sat down with MMA Junkie. But he was in no mood to recount all the particulars of his journey to UFC on ESPN+ 16.
Duffee, who famously was cut by UFC president Dana White after venting about his financial woes, sat on the sidelines for two years when he tried to renegotiate his contract after a knockout loss to Frank Mir in 2015.
Duffee argued he couldn’t make a living fighting for a guaranteed $10,000 and sparred with former UFC matchmaker Joe Silva for a new deal. Then the promotion changed hands, and he developed a relationship with Silva’s replacement, Mick Maynard. But then he got injured – tearing his knee in a freak accident where he fell through a gym’s cage – and found himself out of action another two years.
The talented UFC heavyweight could probably write a book on all he’s been through. But as Duffee repeatedly made clear, he didn’t want to dredge up the past, particularly with reporters he felt weren’t telling the truth about the sport he’s dedicated his life to.
“I’m tired of you guys trying to make me fall on the sword when you guys need to step up your game,” he told MMA Junkie in advance of his meeting with Jeff Hughes at Rogers Arena.
The way Duffee sees MMA, is an unforgiving and brutal sport where it’s hard to make a living. It’s also an amazing sport where you can make a lot of money if the cards stack up right. But there are a lot of things that simply aren’t covered, he said, because the media is more interested in preserving its access than telling the truth.
The reality for Duffee is that he couldn’t compete once a year or less for the amount of money he was making and expect to succeed. And so, he fought behind the scenes for more money and paid the price with a long layoff.
Then injuries “and other (expletive)” got in the way, and he sat out some more.
“You guys are making me come out and talk about this when I shouldn’t have to,” he said. “Joe Rogan’s on his podcast making fun of it. I’m tired of every interview – you know exactly why I sat out for two years. It’s not a secret. What are we doing this for? We’re not doing this for any other reason. Yes, our egos. Yes, pride fighting was a thing. But now, this is about money. It’s always been about money. Why are we pretending?
“Of course, I want to win. Of course, I love fighting. This is a great way to make a living. It’s exciting, it’s fun, it gives you opportunities you can only dream of – you’re living a life on 10 when everyone else is on volume six. But yeah, it just is what it is. I got injured twice. I’m a big heavyweight. I train hard. Bad luck. I mean, I fell through a cage – what are you going to (expletive) do?”
Duffee apologized several times for criticizing the media. He expressed excitement over the chance to compete once again. He said he’d never stopped doing what he loved.
Asked about a potential solution to pay issues, Duffee didn’t want to bring more negative scrutiny by discussing collective bargaining efforts. Winning was the solution for all his problems.
“I have to stay consistent,” he said. “So that’s my job. I have to prove my worth. I thought I had done a good job by being one of the most exciting heavyweights, and (UFC matchmaker) Mick (Maynard) agreed.
“I’m so thankful for Mick. He’s given me this opportunity. I’m not here to complain about that at all. I’m in good shoes now. But when I have to explain every time why two years, you guys already know. You guys are smirking when you ask me. It’s so annoying. It’s like, c’mon. So at this point, it’s my fourth interview today. I’m a little annoyed. I don’t want to have to be the bad guy. I’m not. At this point, I’m not complaining. Am I mad that I lost those two years? Yeah. What can you do. I’ve lost two years for other (expletive) reasons like injuries and other stuff. It’s just life.”
If he can hold up his end of the bargain, Duffee looks forward to the day where he’s treated like a valued commodity. He looks at a prospect like Greg Hardy and sees a fighter who’s getting paid very good money to fight “subpar” opponents. He believes he’s a much better fighter and could do big things for the heavyweight division.
“That (expletive) burns my ass,” he said. “I want to take (Hardy’s) paycheck. He’s getting six figures to fight guys that have been flunked out of the UFC on 0-3 records. Why is nobody talking about that? Why aren’t you guys telling the truth?
“I think he flat out deserves 100,000 (and) 100,000. That’s great. He does. … But everyone does.”
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