The road to this past weekend’s UFC debut was anything but easy for Joe Pyfer.
A 26-year-old middleweight prospect, Pyfer introduced himself in thunderous fashion with a first-round knockout of Alen Amedovski at UFC Vegas 60. It would not be fair to call this moment fleeting. In 2020, Pyfer was on the precipice of achieving his UFC dreams when he suffered a grisly arm injury in the opening minutes of his Contender Series bout against Dustin Stoltzfus. The injury not only delayed Pyfer from achieving his goals, but also made Pyfer unable to fight for over a year. It also caused Pyfer mental and physical problems that he didn’t expect.
“I was injured and got my body built,” Pyfer stated Monday at The MMA Hour . I was in the midst of a slump, man. A depression hit me, the kind of temporary suicide s that you can imagine, and I felt sorry for myself. I allowed what I thought was a failure to really break me as a person and like, ‘Maybe people are right, I’m not meant to do this.’ I don’t know. I used to ask myself these questions all the time, like, ‘Why me? I was always asking myself why. “Why me?”‘ Self pity is what this was .”
Despite being distraught, Pyfer turned the disappointment into motivation for his recovery. He went back to the regional scene in Dec. 2021 and picked up a devastating knockout of Austin Trotman at a CFFC show, then found himself returning at the scene of his misfortune in July: Back in the Contender Series gym, matched up against Ozzy Diaz in a make-or-break second chance to impress UFC president Dana White and the promotion’s matchmakers.
Despite the turmoil in his private life, Pyfer shone. Pyfer won his Contenders Series only UFC contract. He stopped Diaz in a highlight reel, and then showed that the performances were not flukes with victory against Amedovski on Saturday.
“I’d been in the game for, what, 21 years or whatever it’s been, I started jiu-jitsu at four-and-a-half years old, ran away from home, that whole nine yards with that,” Pyfer said. And I get another shot. I had my friend try to commit suicide in my home twice — once before [the fight], and three weeks prior — with a lot more stuff, man. And it was super hard mentally to keep it together. But what I did learn is, I would never take a flight unless I was mentally prepared — and I was mentally prepared, man.
” I chose to be myself once and it’s something that I have never done before. It would be a shame to let everyone else’s s*** stop me. But I know how bad I wanted this, I know how hard I worked for this.”
In a way, the result shouldn’t have been a surprise, because overcoming adversity has always been a hallmark of Pyfer’s journey through life.
A candid conversation was had on The MMA Hour , Pyfer discussed his difficult childhood and family struggles. He said his father was deeply abusive from the time he was one year old, both verbally and physically, to the point where Pyfer had no choice but to flee home before he even graduated from high school.
“I’m not going go into detail of that to that extent, but basically I shoved him, ran out of the house, never went back. Pyfer stated that his father discredits him from that point on. “Laughed at, made fun of, told I was going to be a f****** loser my entire life, man. It’s quite common and there were many gruesome comments.
“But, you know what? My dad wouldn’t let me drive and my father never allowed me to have my ID. My parents were the only ones who gave me any chance of living in their home. And so I joined the wrestling team, man — and I graduated high school, I think I met my savior in life, which was my high-school wrestling coach Will Harmon. With all my heart, I can say that I probably would’ve called it quits if I didn’t meet that man and join that wrestling team.”
Pyfer stated that his relationship with his mom was not different. He said the last time he spoke to her was three years ago and called the relationship “toxic” and “dysfunctional.”
“[When it comes from your mother,] It hurts more than your father,” Pyfer stated. Pyfer said, “I’m not sure why. It’s probably the feelings you have to share with your mother. My mom was very critical of me, as I was an exact copy of my father. They were dysfunctional and verbally abusive. They are not good people .”
Because of his difficult upbringing, Pyfer said he “felt like a f****** freak” most of his life. Pyfer said that he speaks with his father occasionally, but it isn’t a healthy relationship.
But with his UFC dreams finally coming true and his spot on the roster secure after UFC Vegas 60, Pyfer said he’s happier and in a healthier mental place than he’s ever been in his entire life. He knows that Saturday’s UFC debut is just the beginning.
“Those are the things that kept me going — I really believed that was going to be here,” Pyfer said. Pyfer said, “I believed that I would be fighting in the UFC. I knew in my heart, for whatever weird reason, that was why I had to keep going. And I’ve been saying this s*** since I was a f****** kid, man. Eight, nine years old, ‘I’m going to fight, I’m going to fight, I’m going to fight.’ And I always said, ‘UFC, UFC, UFC.’ And now I’m here, man.
” I’m thankful that you are here, man. As if I am afraid of dying, but I have convinced myself this is a very brief life. And I don’t want to fight with people, man. I do not want to be angry and just walk about. My entire life I have been unhappy. I also didn’t enjoy my childhood. But it is what it is, man. I’m here and I’m trying to live right now, and that’s what matters. And all the cameras in my face and everything, I’m cool with it because I’m enjoying the moment. The moment was enjoyable, the walkout was fun, the fight was exciting, and I thoroughly enjoyed each step of the process ?”