Todd Duffee on the viral fake Gian Villante fight that fooled the internet — and why it should’ve happened



UFC Fight Night: Weigh-Ins
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Todd Duffee isn’t sure how he and Gian Villante became a package deal.

Back in 2020, the two veterans became the unwitting targets of some amusing Wikipedia trolling. Week after week during the early stages of the pandemic, one fight crept onto the Wikipedia lineups for the UFC’s upcoming cards: Duffee vs. Villante. The matchup, of course, was fake, but that didn’t stop it from fooling countless MMA fans and pundits each week, including one memorably viral moment from MMA Fighting’s own Ariel Helwani.

So what was the deal with Duffee vs. Villante, and why did it catch the attention of so many?

Your guess is as good as Duffee’s, though he was certainly aware of the phenomenon once it began — and he would’ve been in for the ride if the joke somehow led to a real fight.

“The fight should’ve happened,” Duffee said recently on The MMA Hour, laughing.

“The fight should’ve happened, for sure. I think Gian would’ve liked it too, it would’ve been an exciting fight. … I wanted to see the fight too. I’m sorry I couldn’t bring it to you guys.”

Alas, the dream matchup of all dream matchups wasn’t meant to be.

Repeated injuries kept Duffee sidelined for nearly four years following his final UFC bout against Jeff Hughes in September 2019, which ended in a no-contest. It was more of the same for a fighter who spent long periods of his MMA career stuck on the shelf due to a variety of injuries and outside-of-the-cage issues. Duffee admitted he struggled through “dark” times while his career stagnated due to factors outside of his control, but now, at age 37, the heavyweight talent is fully healthy again and ready to make up for lost time.

Duffee revealed on The MMA Hour that he inked a deal with KSW and is set to challenge for the promotion’s heavyweight title against Phil De Fries on Feb. 25 at KSW 79.

“I feel like I’m in a great spot,” Duffee said.

“[KSW is] selling out 50,000 [seat] arenas. They have 50,000 people in some of these arenas, so it’s exciting. Phil’s a tough opponent. He’s top 25 in the world right now. He’s built himself back up. He seems a lot happier in the cage. So for me, it’s an exciting match. What I’m more excited about is like, this guy in front of me, he’s a very good true test. And I didn’t know it at the time, but I’m excited about getting that belt too, to be honest.

“I think that’ll be a very exciting thing to have. And I’ve always kind of had an odd target on my back, but now there’s a reason to have a target on my back, I guess, once I get that belt. So that’ll feel a little better too, I’m sure.”

Duffee and De Fries have a history together, too. The pair previously met in 2012 at UFC 155, with Duffee scoring a first-round stoppage that earned Knockout of the Night honors. It was one of Duffee’s three UFC wins over his six appearances with the promotion from 2009-10 and again from 2012-19, but it also came against a very different version of De Fries.

Since that time, De Fries has transformed into a dominant heavyweight champion for KSW. The 36-year-old has won 10 straight fights and defended his KSW title seven times — a run that includes stoppages of UFC veterans Luis Henrique and Darko Stosic, as well as two wins over former KSW light heavyweight champion Tomasz Narkun. De Fries has done it all while championing mental health and the role it played in his career turnaround.

“I am glad he’s got his s*** together. I’m excited,” Duffee said. “It’s going be a tougher fight. I expected a tough fight back then [in 2012], to be honest. It was clear he kind of — I remember how the fight felt, anxiety would be a good word for it. I mean, he was pressing.

“He’s talked about it. There’s no there’s no secrets there. That’s fighting though. You have to work through that, and that’s a big part of fighting. It sounds like he’s got himself together. It’s going to be a war. I fully expect a five-round fight.

“But he’s still Phil,” Duffee added.

All in all, Duffee is mostly just excited to be back in the game and healthy to compete after making it through the roller-coaster road his career has taken over the past decade.

As for the superfight the MMA world never got, don’t expect Duffy to call out his old Wikipedia pal if he gets the job done at KSW 79. After all, Villante retired from MMA in 2021.

“I think I’m going to go next in line, especially if you’re telling me he’s retired,” Duffee said, laughing again. “If he’s retired, I don’t want to fight a guy that’s not wanting to fight.

“You don’t retire because you want to fight, you retire because you don’t want to fight.”

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