In a shining example of art imitating life, someone whose nickname is “Body Bagz,” isn’t the most sentimental type, especially when it comes to the topic of waxing poetic about his hometown.
Sure, Joe Pyfer loves Philadelphia, but when it comes to the whole “Philly fighter” image of his peers being tougher than everyone else in the fight game, he’ll pass.
“Nah man, I don't give a s**t about that,” laughs Pyfer, a Vineland, New Jersey native who has been training in the City of Brotherly Love for the last two decades. “I hate to be completely dismissive of it, but the reason I say that is because I've always hated on the people who constantly said, ‘I'm from here, I'm from here.’ It's like the tough guy that always said you should be scared of him because of where he was born. Nah man, just because you were born somewhere doesn't make you tough. I'm tough because I was shaped by life and had a lot of experiences that were unfortunate that had me in a dark place, suicide and depression.”
So it’s not the zip code, it’s the man in the zip code, and few will argue with the toughness of the 26-year-old middleweight prospect, who takes on veteran standout Gerald Meerschaert. It’s Pyfer’s second fight since a July 2022 stoppage of Ozzy Diaz on Dana White’s Contender Series earned him a UFC contract and took him viral after White suggested that anyone who wanted to be signed by the promotion should “Be Joe Pyfer.”
Pyfer followed that performance up with a first-round finish of Alen Amedovski in his Octagon debut last September, and while the perception of him has changed since that night at the APEX last summer, internally, he’s still Joe Pyfer.
Joe Pyfer Breaks Down DWCS Contract-Winning Performances
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Joe Pyfer Breaks Down DWCS Contract-Winning Performances
“Besides the money that I have in my bank account, not too much,” he said when asked how life has changed for him in the last nine months. “As far as recognition, social media wise, and just the amount of contacts that I've been able to make since being in the UFC, that's been a drastic change. But as far as my day-to-day life, it hasn't really changed for me. I keep the same schedule, stay in the gym, and that's honestly how it's been. I haven't left the gym since I won my contract, so relatively nothing has changed. I didn't take a vacation or anything of that sort.”
In other words, getting to the place he has been chasing for most of his life hasn’t prompted him to take his foot off the gas in the slightest. Getting here was only part of the plan. Staying and succeeding are the next two chapters he has to write.
“The goal was always, since I was a child, to make it to the UFC, no other organization, and I'm proud of that,” said Pyfer. “And this is my whole life; I have no Plan B. The hunger comes from understanding that I am not the best in the world at this very moment. I am not someone that is content with just being a participant. I really want to test myself and find out how far I can go, and I know how skilled I am, and I know how good I am, and I know the limits that I can push, and I think they're much greater than that of my other competition I'll face.”
Though he won’t come out and beat his chest about it, because he’s not a “look at me” kind of person, Pyfer’s story of perseverance in life, as well as fighting, is inspiring, and the fact that he came back from an injury-induced loss to Dustin Stoltzfus in his first shot at a contract on the Contender Series in 2020 to get signed the second time around puts him in a place where many would consider him a role model. And while he appreciates the kind words, just like the whole Philly fighter thing, Pyfer isn’t interested in that position, either.
“That's an important question for me because I don't look at myself as a role model, and I never will,” he said. “It's kind of the same thing, but for me it's different, and I'd rather look at myself as an inspiration for someone to stick to something they believe that they can succeed in.”
Pyfer always believed, through the good, the bad and the ugly, from jiu-jitsu tournaments at the age of five to a prizefight on the sport’s biggest stage in Miami on Saturday. He’s never wavered in his belief that this was his path.
“I knew fighting was it for me because, not even just the fighting portion, but the training portion,” he said. “I was willing to get up at any time of the day to go and get better at it, as long as I had people that were there that would give me their time so I could learn. So the whole ‘Be Joe Pyfer’ thing, I never got told that at all in my life, ever. It was always, there's something wrong with this kid. And it came to a point where I started believing like, ‘Man, is there really something wrong with me?’ But one thing that always stood true is that gut feeling that I had. I was like, ‘Man, I don't think I'm meant to be average.’ I just didn't feel it. So I wouldn't say I'm comfortable being a role model because I'm an imperfect human and I'm still going to make mistakes. And I'm still probably going to say s**t that people don't like. And I'm cool with that.”
So no role model?
“I'm not putting my story out there to get sympathy,” Pyfer adds. “I'm putting my story out there to inspire the ones that have that fire in their belly, have that fire in their heart. I did and I do. So nothing's changed. That fire doesn't go away. It only goes away when you think you've done something. So, in my eyes, I'm still a nobody. And I don't say that humbly because I know who the f**k I am. But I have done nothing in the sport yet. So, no, to answer your question, I don't want to be a role model, I just want to be an inspiration for people that are hungry.”
The funny thing is, if you know his story and then hear him tell it, it’s impossible not to want to “Be Joe Pyfer.” Maybe motivational speaking is in his future, but I don’t bring that up since he already killed my role model and Philly fighter angles. He laughs.
“Hey, look, I love Philadelphia,” Pyfer said. “I love training there and it does develop character, it does develop thick skin. But I've already had that. Just from my upbringing I've had thick skin. I know how to get made fun of and keep moving forward. I know how to get picked on and keep moving forward. But I'm a grown f**king man now. I don't get picked on.”
Nope. Not anymore.