Even bull riders strive for a full eight seconds atop a 1500-pound bucking mass of destruction.
In his UFC debut, Todd Duffee needed just seven short seconds to knock out promising heavyweight Tim Hague—a former King of the Cage Canada Heavyweight Champion. However, what preceded those seven seconds, as Duffy tells it, was a year of turmoil.
At just 24-years-old, Duffee is one of the youngest faces in the UFC. He grew up in Eldorado, Illinois, and after moving to Atlanta, began his mixed martial arts training at the age of 19. After three professional wins (all first round KOs or TKOs), Duffee agreed to fight former UFC and PRIDE FC veteran Assuerio Silva on the Jungle Fight 11 main event card in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. With a cage set up in a hotel ballroom, Duffee made his mark in what was the defining fight of his young career, as he beat Silva by TKO at 1:17 of the second round.
“I was over there with a complete feeling of relief after the fight,” says Duffee. “My record at the time was only 3 –0, and there were a lot of questions about what I was capable of. Despite breaking my hand, I think I proved I was a legitimate fighter.”
MAKING DREAMS HAPPEN
Once home back home in Athens, Georgia, Duffee didn’t let the cast deter him. He would run to the gym to shadow box at 1 a.m. or wrap his cast in a towel so he could grapple without hurting his teammates. Although Duffee was set on gaining international experience with an overseas company like K-1 or DREAM, those companies showed no interest. One that did, however, was the UFC.
“The UFC is every fighter’s dream,” says Duffee. Still, he hesitated before signing. “It wasn’t that I didn’t think I was ready. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to fight for the UFC … everybody wants to fight for the UFC. It was about the fact that I wanted to go prove myself internationally and get those extra fights.”
What solidified his decision to sign with the UFC was a cut he received below his eye while training with the American Top Team in Florida. The gash required 58 stitches, sidelining him for four weeks. “That cut made me realize that anything can happen, and I just couldn’t pass up the UFC opportunity.”
What followed was a fight agreement with Mostapha Al-Turk at UFC 99, an ACL injury, and a staph infection inside his elbow. After a partial recovery, Duffee was back in the gym training. Ultimately, the Al-Turk fight was given to Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic. Duffee was asked to stand by as an alternate, but a fight never materialized.
Duffee was then slated to face Mike Russow at UFC 102, but his opponent was changed from Russow to Tim Hague nine weeks before the fight. Adding to the stress of his UFC debut, Duffee moved his father, who was suffering from dementia and liver failure, from Illinois to Florida and back in the last few weeks before the fight. “I was worried I would come home and my dad would be gone,” explains Duffee. “I was still concentrating where I needed to, but it was mentally taxing.”
When Duffee finally stepped into the Octagon for the first time, his entrance to the cage was longer than the actual fight. His seven-second KO of Hague earned him a place in the UFC history books as the fastest official KO.
Although a seven-second win is always a good thing, Duffee admits he wanted a three-round war. “I had prepared for almost a year—I wanted a battle. I wanted it to be a war.”
The powerful heavyweight is careful what he wishes for, because in the UFC, a war is always right around the corner.