April 15th marks one of the most anticipated UFC debuts in recent memory. This Saturday, at the Sprint Center in Kansas City Tom Duquesnoy - the 14-1 (1NC) former BAMMA bantamweight and featherweight champion - will finally step into the Octagon. But according to the much-hyped 23-year-old, this debut could have happened a lot earlier.
“It’s been almost five years since now, that I’ve been in touch with the UFC,” said ‘Fire Kid’ Duquesnoy to Bloody Elbow. “They wanted to sign me at the age of 19.” But, he opted not to sign with MMA’s biggest promotion as a teen because his goal at that time was to gain experience and develop his skills on the regional circuit. “That way I could build into the most complete fighter as possible, so when I would go to the UFC I could compete with the best and bring the best amount of entertainment.”
While Duquesnoy was putting together his near flawless pro-record (his only loss coming to Makwan Amirkhani in 2013) he had plenty of other offers from large MMA promotions. Duquesnoy admitted that both Bellator and World Series of Fighting wanted to sign him, along with other promotions in Russia and Asia. After years of staying in “good contact” with the UFC, he and the Vegas-based fight factory finally made things official in January, with the Frenchman signing a multi-fight deal.
“I felt good, but at the same time; it was a bit surreal,” said Duqesnoy of the moment he finally put pen to paper with the promotion. “It was a goal since I started MMA to get to the UFC, so it was a big pleasure for me, a very big deal in my life. I’m very happy and at the same time I can’t wait to pursue my goals in the UFC.”
Duquesnoy, who has been training at Jackson Wink MMA Academy in Albuquerque, NM for the past three years, said now is “the perfect time” to make his UFC debut. “I get to perform while I feel good mentally, physically, technically, and psychologically,” he said. “I am at one of the best gyms in the world, my coaches believe in me, now is the moment for me to bring what I have to the highest level.”
Along with Greg Jackson and Mike Winkeljohn, Duquesnoy still seeks guidance from his longtime coach Bourama Traore (aka Tha Manofshadow). The Paris-based Traore visits with Duquesnoy in Albuquerque and will be in the young bantamweight’s corner on Saturday night.
When Duquesnoy does step into the Octagon this weekend, he’ll do it opposite Patrick Williams. The 8-4 American Top Team product was a high school state wrestling champion in Florida before enrolling at Arizona State University (where he wrestled alongside Cain Velasquez, Ryan Bader, C.B. Dollaway, and John Moraga). Williams won a Performance of the Night bonus last time out, after submitting Alejandro Perez in 23-seconds back at UFC 188.
Wisely, the Firekid isn’t taking his first UFC opponent lightly.
“I think he’s a well rounded fighter,” said Duquesnoy. “Very talented and very tough mentally and physically. He has high-level wrestling so it will be interesting to test my wrestling defense. And he is opportunistic. He knows how to take advantage of a situation, he knows how to use his techniques and his physicality against someone in the cage. So it’s a very interesting fight for me and I don’t see that much weakness in his style.”
Duquesnoy is well aware that most UFC fans may be unfamiliar with his strengths inside the cage. On Saturday the owner of 11 stoppages (7 by KO/TKO) is hoping to showcase his entertaining style of fighting. “I always do striking naturally,” said Duquesnoy, who boxed before training in MMA. “But I take into account that for a good show; we need to see the KO, we need to see impressive stuff - aesthetically. When you are watching the screen and see the UFC, you want to see something that is entertaining, so the most important thing for me is to always go forward. I don’t do boring fights, so what I do is put myself in a position where I give everything for the audience. They can expect a very good show.”
UFC fans don’t have long to wait to see if Duquesnoy can deliver on his promises. His fight with Patrick Williams goes down this weekend at UFC on FOX 24: Johnson versus Reis, live on FOX.