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“I’ve come here to make an impression on the world”

14/08/2014

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By PAUL DOLLERY

The call to make the step-up to the next level was something he’d been waiting on. When it came earlier this summer, Damien Lapilus (9-3-1-1) didn’t hesitate to answer.

Welcoming Joseph Duffy back to the Cage Warriors Fighting Championship lightweight division – in front of a partisan crowd in Duffy’s native Ireland – didn’t appeal to many, but it represented a golden opportunity for Lapilus.

On Saturday he’ll make his CWFC debut, headlining one of the promotion’s most highly-anticipated cards of the year, against an opponent who carries a hefty weight of pressure and expectation on his shoulders.

Duffy holds wins over world-class opponents like Conor McGregor and Norman Parke, has appeared on The Ultimate Fighter, and competed for the CWFC lightweight world title in his most recent outing.

Ahead of his return to MMA after a three-year hiatus, during which he embarked on a 7-0 run as a professional boxer, Duffy has been in demand; inundated with interview requests from MMA media across the world, all interested in learning more about the man who brought down two of the UFC’s most exciting prospects.

Away from the spotlight, however, Damien Lapilus has been preparing quietly at the Crossfight camp in Paris. This weekend’s main-event meeting with Duffy at CWFC 70 in Dublin is the biggest fight of his career, but Lapilus has nothing to lose and everything to gain.

“I have been wanting to fight for Cage Warriors for a long time, because I want to get to the very top in this sport. CWFC can make all my dreams come true,” said 26-year-old Lapilus.

“I know all about Joseph Duffy; that he has good skills in all areas and was one of the best prospects in Ireland before he went over to boxing. On paper he is my toughest opponent so far, but we’ll see if that’s the case on Saturday.

“He’ll be fighting in front of his home crowd, his fans, his family and friends, so it will be a comfortable situation for him. But I can assure you that he will not be so comfortable once the cage-door closes. Then it’s just him against me.”

The passionate Irish crowd may well give Duffy an advantage, but that’s unlikely to concern a skilled young Frenchman whose edges were sharpened by a tough upbringing in the Parisian suburbs of Sevran and Mèe-sur-Seine, where – according to Lapilus – “Life was not easy. For a young person there to get respect and a peaceful life, you have to fight in the street to earn it.”

The need to defend himself convinced Lapilus to take up grappling and jiu-jitsu, along with his younger brother Taylor. Then they came across some old Pride FC tapes and MMA took over their lives.

Taylor, 22, is an 8-1 featherweight with similarly lofty ambitions, but big brother Damien is leading the charge. Both have won significant titles and reached the summit on the domestic circuit in France, but now it’s time to look beyond those frontiers.

The Lapilus brothers are still on a quest to earn respect, but also global recognition in the sport they’ve devoted their lives to. Damien hopes to take his biggest step towards that to date when he faces Joseph Duffy at The Helix on Saturday.

When Duffy last competed in MMA, Lapilus had yet to make his debut. Fourteen professional bouts later, the Parisian southpaw – unlike his opponent – won’t have any concerns about ring-rust, having competed seven times inside the last year alone.

After a 2-2 start to his career, Lapilus has since tasted defeat just once in his subsequent ten outings – a submission loss to undefeated Finnish prospect Teemu Packalen last year, which Lapilus blames on under-estimating his opponent. The chances of him taking his next foe lightly are slim, however.

Lapilus said: “I’ll put absolutely everything into this fight. I haven’t come to Dublin to be a tourist, I’ve come to win and make a good impression on the world. I’m feeling very confident about this fight.

“After I win, I hope to get a Cage Warriors multi-fight deal and challenge for that world title. Nobody will want to miss this fight. It will be special.”

For a young prospect hungry for respect, defeating Joseph Duffy in his own backyard wouldn’t be a bad way to go about earning it.

Photo: Marc-Olivier Souder

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