When he signed a final contract with the British Association of Mixed Martial Arts in 2015, Tom Duquesnoy knew he had four fights to captivate the MMA masses. Three stoppages and two world titles later, he had cemented his place as one of the sport’s top prospects. Duquesnoy signed with the Ultimate Fighting Championship in January.
UFC matchmaker Sean Shelby was so interested in the 23-year-old Frenchman that he kept in contact with him during his time in BAMMA. When asked about a possible move to the Octagon, Duquesnoy often claimed he would only put pen to paper when he believed he was ready to challenge for the bantamweight title.
In conversations backstage following Duquesnoy’s final BAMMA win over Alan Philpott on Dec. 16, trainer Greg Jackson agreed that “Firekid” was capable of taking on ranked opponents in the UFC. Duquesnoy will reportedly make his organizational debut at UFC on Fox 24 in Kansas City, Missouri. No opponent has been announced, but as the date approaches, the blue-chip prospect has taken on a realistic view of the situation and admits he will need time to acclimate to life at the highest level.
“I feel like I’m ready to compete against the best,” Duquesnoy told Sherdog.com after returning from a seminar tour in Europe. “Bantamweight is extremely strong at the moment, and I can see a number of interesting fights for me in the top five of the division. I’m still in the process of building a long, successful career, so I need to take my time. I’m only 23 years old, so I think I have a lot of time to make my mark with the UFC. I’ve always been very patient throughout my career, and that will stay the same with the UFC.
“I’m going to have my first fight very soon, and we will see where I’m heading after that,” he added. “Again, I feel like I’m ready to take on the best, but at the moment, I want to get used to the process of the UFC events. It’s all about feeling for me. I’m sure the UFC will offer me a very good opponent for my debut. Hopefully, it will be a nice style matchup for the fans, too. I will fight for the first time on April 15, and after that, I will decide what is the next best move for my career.”
Duquesnoy was quick to compliment the top three fighters in the division: current champion Cody Garbrandt and former titleholders Dominick Cruz and T.J. Dillashaw.
“This category is one of the best,” he said. “The explosiveness, the speed and the technique on display make it one of the most exciting divisions to watch. When you look at the top three, you’ve got Garbrandt, Cruz and Dillashaw; I really like to watch these guys. They’re strong, but more importantly, they’re smart. I think they are a big factor in making bantamweight one of the most interesting divisions. When those guys fight, I make sure to watch it because I find it very interesting. Very soon they will be my opponents, so I need to look at them.”
The once-beaten Duquesnoy paid particular attention to the undefeated Garbrandt’s decision victory over Cruz at UFC 207 in December (online betting).
“Garbrandt was very smart in the way he approached the fight,” he said. “He did exactly what he needed to do against Cruz, who we know is so smart and technical. Garbrandt stayed in the middle distance, and that allowed him to be very efficient with his takedown defense. His boxing was so sharp, and that allowed him to do what he needed to do. For me, as a guy who is analyzing a future opponent, it was very interesting to watch. Even for the fans, it was very aesthetically interesting, as we saw from the big reaction it got.”
Much of the buzz surrounding Duquesnoy originates in Europe, and while support on the continent -- particularly in Ireland, where his three appearances at 3Arena provided him with a massive following -- remains important to him, the Jackson-Wink MMA rep wants to fight in the United States under the UFC banner.
“I’m very happy with the support I get in Europe and especially Ireland,” Duquesnoy said. “They have a great fight culture over there and big respect for fighters. It will always be a great pleasure for me to visit Ireland for fights, seminars or just a vacation because those people have been very good to me. As far as fighting there for UFC is concerned, I really don’t know, because the big market for this sport is in the United States. Because I haven’t had a chance to fight there, I think it is best for me to target that market, especially when I’m living in Albuquerque.
“Albuquerque is very close to all of the UFC’s primary locations, like Los Angeles and Las Vegas,” he added. “Over the next few years, I think it’s better for me to fight and train as much as I can in the U.S.”
Duquesnoy used to split his training camps between France and New Mexico due to his commitments to BAMMA, but he believes he will spend more time on American soil now that he has agreed to terms with the UFC.
“The time in Albuquerque has always been spent training, but I would always come back to France before fights because I was contracted to BAMMA,” Duquesnoy said. “Now, as I will be fighting in the U.S. and training at Jackson’s, it will probably be 80/20, with the majority of the time spent in the U.S.”
Capturing UFC gold remains a goal for the Frenchman, but he has decided against putting a timeline on his pursuits.
“When will I fight for the title? I guess that will depend on how I will feel,” Duquesnoy said. “I’ve always done things in my life when I felt mentally prepared to do them. I don’t have it planned out in terms of time, but it’s definitely one of my goals.”