Tom Duquesnoy once said that he would only join the UFC ranks when he felt that he was able to step right into the title conversation. Today, just eleven days after Cody Garbrandt shocked the world by dethroning Dominick Cruz, the French talent has been confirmed for a debut with the promotion on April 15.
French publication L'Avenir de l'Artois broke the news of the 23-year-old BAMMA double weight world champion signing with UFC. The report was later confirmed by a number of MMA media members.
'Firekid' had been among the list of names considered to be the top prospects outside of the world's flagship promotion since 2014. In an interview with Fightland in June, Duquesnoy claimed that Sean Shelby had kept in regular contact with him over the years to underline the interest he had in him.
Duquesnoy always insisted that UFC was his end goal, but he declared himself open to all offers ahead of his final BAMMA fight last month, that took place on the European promotion's first co-promoted event with Bellator, in Dublin.
Scott Coker assured that he would have a close eye on 'Firekid' ahead of his main event slot on the BAMMA portion of the card against Northern Ireland's Alan Philpott. Duquesnoy also confirmed that Bellator was one of the promotions that were interested in securing his signature ahead of the fight.
"I am the number one prospect in the sport for the fourth year in a row," he told the Irish Mirror ahead of the clash.
"To have all of these promotions so interested in signing me fills me with confidence because I know that means that I'm on the right track. With so many promotions looking for me, it gives me a lot of choices and that's very exciting for me.
"(BAMMA and Bellator) is a great collaboration. It's great for all of the European fighters and it's great personally for me because I had the opportunity to meet Bellator president Scott Coker.
"I've spoken to their matchmakers, and Bellator is a very strong option for me now too."
Watching Duquesnoy's last BAMMA fight at the 3 Arena reminded me of when we hear UFC staff talk about Forrest Griffin and Stefan Bonner fighting in the UFC finale, albeit on a much smaller scale. When the first bell sounded, a few tweets went out on social media threads, but by the end of the fight, Duquesnoy had won himself a whole new audience based on the reaction to his performance.
Alan Philpott proved a worthy adversary by rocking Duquesnoy on his feet, but the French fighter's skillset was undeniable as he was forced to dig deep against a fellow prospect. Better known for his ability in the striking realms, by finishing the fight on the ground with a rear naked choke in the second round that Tom showcased his growth with the win, which reverberated emphatically with diehard international fans.
Greg Jackson has been overseeing the progress of Duquesnoy, and commended the prospects ability after the Philpott win backstage, saying he was "like a sponge" in the way that he could soak up knowledge at the Albuquerque facility. The veteran coach also agreed with the many media members who believe that Duquesnoy could have an immediate impact on the UFC's bantamweight division once he decided that he was ready to commit his future to the world's flagship MMA banner.
Although Bellator and another Russian promotion were in the running for Duquesnoy's signature, European fans will be delighted to see him finally pit his skills against fighters at the top of the food chain at 135 lbs.
The lifelong martial artist was already considered an outlier at featherweight, before a controversial decision win for him over Britain's Brendan Loughnane prompted a move down in weight class. Ever since then, Duquesnoy has been making short work of his opponents, showcasing his one hit knockout power in doing so.
'Firekid' won the Irish fans over despite him taking on a national favorite, Damian Rooney, in Dublin for his bantamweight debut in February. A former Irish champion, Rooney looked to take the fight to Duquesnoy but was dispatched at the end of left hook. The fans in attendance stood and applauded Duquesnoy, who has considered the Irish capital one of his favorite fight destinations ever since.
His next outing came against former champion Shay Walsh. Again, Walsh looked to put Duquesnoy on the back foot but ended up eating one of the most devastating elbows captured on film just 75 seconds into the bout.
Duquesnoy's third Dublin outing against Philpott marked him out as one of the best prospects on the world circuit, but it is now up to Duquesnoy to prove his potential when he makes his first trip to the Octagon in April.