The interview ended abruptly. It had to. That was no reflection on bantamweight prospect Tom Duquesnoy, who is always generous with his time, even when preparing for his Saturday bout with Cody Stamann.
Instead, it was the realization that after several minutes of talking about everything but fighting, it would be trivial to then discuss his thoughts on Stamann or his place in the 135-pound weight class. In fact, there’s a distinct sense that 25 years from now, when Duquesnoy’s gloves have long been hung up, prizefighting may be just a small part of his story.
“I’m an MMA fighter, but I don’t consider myself just an MMA fighter,” he said. “I consider myself an artist because there are different things I want to develop in my professional career. Acting, modeling, writing books. You an artist by the way you think, and the way I think is what makes me the person I am today.”
Just 24, he has already lived more life than most of his peers, and probably more than people twice his age. Being on your own since the age of 18 will change the way you see the world. Sometimes that’s good, sometimes that’s bad. In the case of Duquesnoy, he’s embraced his freedom while keeping the discipline necessary to succeed in mixed martial arts.
“I’ve been on the road a lot of years now,” he said. “I grew up in the north of France, and I left there to go to Paris at the age of 18. From that age, I had one dream in mind, to become the best martial artist, but also to be happy in life. From there, I had a lot of personal responsibility. I wasn’t with my father anymore, so I was completely alone. I had good people surrounding me, but in order to keep improving my MMA level, I had to organize things on my own and fight for the dream.”
Eventually, that meant relocating to the United States, where he’s set up camp with the Jackson-Wink MMA squad in Albuquerque. Again, new place, new culture, new language, but he’s figured it all out. Today, he’s one fight into his UFC career, about to embark on his second, and he’s the top prospect in the bantamweight division.
In other words, he may not have made it to the top of the weight class yet, but he’s made it in so many other ways in which he’s beaten the odds against him from the start. That’s a story that will probably make a good book someday. Oh wait, Duquesnoy is already on top of that, as he is almost finished writing a book he hopes to release in the spring of next year. Again, it’s not easy, but Duquesnoy embraces the difficult.
“You have to explain everything you have in your head on paper,” he said. “That can take hours. You have to structure and make sense of everything and at the same time you have to explain everything. So it’s fascinating, it’s hard, it’s very inspiring, and it’s created something in me to write other books. Right after I finish this book, I’m going to write another one.”
I ask Duquesnoy if there’s a French equivalent of the phrase “old soul,” because I wonder if anyone has ever called him one. He laughs, especially when I say he could have fit right into the world of the 40s and 50s.
“You say 40s and 50s, I would say 70s and 80s,” he said. “I think that’s the most interesting period of history. Music wise, that’s the type of music I’m listening to – all the disco, new wave and rock from those days. That’s the best for me. All the movies too. DeNiro, Pacino, Sergio Leone, they come from that time.
“From the very beginning, when I was by myself in Paris, I was surrounded by people that were in their 40s and 50s,” he continues. “They probably liked the fact that I was mature for my age or they were attached to me because I was so attached to my dream. I am the synthesis of all the people I have encountered in my whole life.”
Yeah, Duquesnoy is a different kind of cat altogether. And he’s just fine with that.
“Certain people would release their emotions by going to parties, having drinks, doing something else,” he said. “But it is completely not my thing. I think it’s a philosophical point of view from the very beginning. I chose MMA because it’s the sport I’ve been practicing for years. It could have been something else, but I wanted to do is something in life that makes me happy, something that allows me to travel all around the world, discovering new people, new cultures, speaking different languages, and just discovering everything that the world has to offer. And having the best level in MMA allows me to do all that. So that’s why I chose it. I wanted something where I am my own boss and everything relies on what I’m doing.”
So we did get back to fighting, and the only question that makes itself obvious comes from Duquesnoy’s approach to life. He lives every day as if he’s attacking life, and if you’ve seen him fight before, he’s always attacking. Are the two connected?
“I think so,” he said. “The mentality I have when I am in a fight is to go forward. That’s a good thing because it offers the audience a good show. It can also be a weakness because sometimes people will wait for it and try to counter me, so I try to still have that aggressive style while also being aware that I could be countered and I try manage that.”
Never stop attacking, Mr. Duquesnoy.