Todd Duffee: Being outside the UFC was a sickening, depressing, nightmare
Todd Duffee was an undefeated pro when he entered the UFC. He was released following a win over Tim Hague and a loss to Mike Russow. For the next two years he fought only twice, losing in K-1 to Alistair Overeem in 19 seconds, and beating Neil Grove in India’s SFL. Then he made a successful return to the UFC, knocking out Philip De Fries in the first back in December.
While a cut after a single loss is unusual, UFC president explained his reasoning at the time.
“We have the ability to cut a guy when he loses a fight,” explaiend White. “He lost that fight, but the biggest problem I have with Todd Duffee is his attitude. You guys don’t see it. You don’t know. I deal with tons of guys. We have hundreds of guys under contract and I’ve had thousands of guys under contract over the last ten years and Todd Duffee, to me, doesn’t seem like he wants to be in the UFC. He doesn’t like being in the UFC. Let him go fight in the smaller organizations and work his way back up, if he even wants to work his way back up and get back into the UFC. He just came off a knockout. He got knocked out in his fight and he’s got a horrible attitude. He’s got a horrible attitude. He can still go back and train and fight in these smaller leagues and work on his skills and his attitude.”
Ed Kapp from AboveAndBeyondMMA.com recently caught up with Todd Duffee to discuss what it is like inside and outside the UFC.
Ed Kapp: How did it feel to be on the outside looking in?
Todd Duffee: It was a nightmare every day. It was sickening. It was very depressing. It was a giant … oh, I need to find new terminology to describe this. It was a giant mind-f—. I don’t know how else to put it. You see guys that you’re better than fighting in the UFC, you see guys you’re friends and training partners are saying you’re better than fighting in the UFC. I felt really stupid. I genuinely just felt like an idiot. Everybody was telling me I had all this talent but I was never going to be back in the UFC, it’s over. Obviously, I couldn’t let it go. I still believed I had a shot. I still knew how good I am. I’m extensively training with seven of the top 10 guys right now. I have a pretty good idea of where I stand. And I don’t think I’d continue to be willing to make the sacrifices if I didn’t believe I have what it takes to be one of the best. If not the best. It was terrible, dude. It hurt my career. You want to talk about a bad attitude? I definitely developed a bad attitude during that time period. For about nine months, a year, I was hard to be around. I felt bad for the guys at Grudge. I wasn’t positive. I was just grinding through my workouts. There was one point where I would drive to AKA, check my bank account and I would just walk in the gym with tears in my eyes. DC [Daniel Cormier] would come up to me, “Are you alright, dude?” This was because I felt like such an idiot. I should’ve been out getting my college education, going to work. All my friends are finishing up their doctorates — they’re doing all this great stuff that I should be doing. Instead, I’m out here being dumb. Has it paid off now? Yes. I could’ve approached it a lot differently and maybe I’d still be in the same spot. You don’t know. I could’ve gotten here sooner, for all we know. I guess the best way to describe it was that I felt really stupid.
EK: Is it possible to make a comfortable living in MMA outside of the UFC?
TD: If you have a good manager … I was having a lot of problems. Even the smaller promotions would literally write me off before they had a phone conversation with me. They would say, “Oh, he’s got a bad attitude,” or, “Oh, he’s going to want too much money.” The consistency outside of the UFC is a nightmare. You know that as well as anybody. I wouldn’t say it’s impossible, but it’s not easy. It’s not ideal [laughs]. There are a few — some of these guys in Bellator, some of these guys in One FC — who can. But the landscape outside of the UFC has changed drastically. It’s tough out there for those guys. I feel bad for them. I can relate to them 100 per cent. It’s very stressful [laughs].
EK: How did you learn that the UFC wanted to bring you back into the fold?
TD: I was bugging Joe Silva. I got lucky. I called Joe Silva the night before, because I was getting ready to sign a kickboxing contract. I said, “Hey, man, is there anything we can do?” And he’s like, “Well, I tried calling you for the [Gabriel] Gonzaga fight but you changed your number.” [Laughs] I was like, “Really?! Awesome. That’s terrible!” But he said there was a chance something might come up and he would give me a call tomorrow and let me know. Bob Cook had already had a deal with an old training partner of mine. But he was not able to get out of his Bellator contract in time, so he couldn’t sign with the UFC. So Bob was able to work me in and get the deal. That’s how I learned. I literally had my apartment packed, I was showing my friend my apartment and Bob is calling me, but I’m not answering it. I was too depressed. I was packing myself up and moving to go live in Holland [laughs]. I was going to work my kickboxing. I was going to work on my kickboxing and travel that route. Because that was where the financials were at the time.
EK: What do you think you could do in the world of kickboxing?
TD: Knock out a lot of people and get knocked out a lot.
EK: It’s that simple?
TD: That’s the sport, man. You know it as well as I do. In K-1, the greatest guys in the world have been knocked out 20 times a piece [laughs]. That’s just the game. I think, with my style, it would equate to that [laughs].
EK: In retrospect, what was at stake in your return to the UFC at 155?
TD: The rumour was that I was going to get cut again if I didn’t win [laughs], but I don’t know that. I heard that from a few people inside. But my whole life was — everything I’ve ever worked for was at stake. Everything I’ve ever committed to. In the end, most guys walk away from this sport a failure. It’s just the sad truth. It’s the sad reality of being a fighter. You’re going to have to carry that with you your entire life. It’s how you respond to that that doesn’t make you the actual failure. I would say my entire life. If I would’ve lost that fight, chances are I would’ve gotten cut — that would’ve technically been my second loss in a row in the UFC. I’d probably be looking at a kickboxing contract or going back to school. But everything I’ve ever worked for was at stake. But I think that’s every fight. That situation is not much different than what most guys have to live through, you know?
EK: Ideally, when would you like to return to action?
TD: Maybe this summer. That would be ideal. It looks like I’ve had a bit of a set-back in my rehab, so we’re probably looking at September, October.
EK: What does the future hold for Todd Duffee?
TD: I’m a wildcard, man. That’s what everybody tells me. It could be a disaster or it could be the greatest thing in the world. I’d like to think that I’m going to hit great. I know that I’m doing everything I can to be there. I think the future holds consistent fights and we’ll see. I’m in a weird spot right now. At one point, I was a huge top prospect, but I haven’t fought consistently enough to maintain that. We’ll see.