UFC middleweight Joe Pyfer recently described the journey he’s had to make it to the Octagon, including an extremely troublesome childhood.
Pyfer has quickly established himself as one of the leading prospects to keep an eye on in MMA’s premier promotion. Whilst he initially saw his chance to join the UFC fall away when he suffered an arm injury on Dana White’s Contender Series in 2020, “Bodybagz” made the most of his second opportunity, delivering a brutal knockout that not only secured a contract, but birthed the “be Joe Pyfer” tag.
This past weekend at UFC Vegas 60, Pyfer made his UFC debut against Alen Amedovski. Continuing the momentum from his DWCS triumph, the 26-year-old stopped the Macedonian-born Italian with a perfectly set-up right cross in the first round.
Like many, Pyfer’s road to the UFC hasn’t been an easy one. Whilst recovering and rebounding from the gruesome elbow injury he suffered during a Dustin Stoltzfus slam had its challenges physically and mentally, the New Jersey native’s second crack at impressing the UFC president came with an impending eviction and uncertain future looming overhead.
And as it turns out, those challenges outside the cage only touch the surface of what Pyfer has been through to get to where he is today.
Pyfer Has Faced Major Adversity In Life
During a recent appearance on The MMA Hour with Ariel Helwani, Pyfer went into detail about the horrifying acts that forced him to leave home at the age of 16.
Following his parents’ divorce, Pyfer moved with his father. While that left him away from an abusive mother, the budding fighter was subjected to intense physical beatings at the hands of his father. After enduring as much as he could, Pyfer ran away.
“(I was) 16 years old. (I ran away) ’cause I got beat from the time of about a year old, all the way up until — and I mean beat,” Pyfer said. “I got beat like a grown man; verbally, physically. My four sisters suffered the same thing. One time I got beat up real, real, real bad and, yeah man, I shoved him over a table ’cause he did something, said he was gonna kill me… shoved him, ran out of the house and never went back.
“I’ve been discredited from that moment by him ever since then; laughed at, made fun of, told I was gonna be a f*cking loser my entire life. Short version is I ran away from one ’cause I got tired of being beat up in front of his wife and treated like I was just some type of slave and property,” Pyfer added. “Nobody f*cking owns me, so I got tired of that sh*t… I was gonna either hurt myself or hurt him. That was the final straw. I got tired of being some trophy he could beat on in front of his new wife.”
Having left home at such an early age, things didn’t get easier for Pyfer, who went on to describe the horrible living conditions he endured throughout high school.
“I went and lived with a kid… he was adopted by a white man. I went and lived there for the duration of high school. Living conditions were disgusting,” Pyfer recalled. “Everyone was petitioning to get the house condemned because it reeked so bad. The guy was a hoarder, there were cats in there who pissed all over it. I mean, you could touch any surface and it would feel like f*cking dry honey… rust in the bathrooms, roaches.”
Pyfer also explained that he was never allowed to secure his state ID or driver’s license, meaning he had “zero opportunity” whilst living with his parents. Having escaped the situation, he joined a high school wrestling team, meeting a coach whom he described as his “saviour.”
A decade later, Pyfer finds himself in a position of happiness and success. But despite his harrowing journey, “Bodybagz” isn’t looking for sympathy. Rather, he’s hoping to serve as evidence of what can be achieved if the work and effort is put in.
“I’m not a perfect person. I’m not a role model for kids,” Pyfer stated. “I’m someone who’s trying to show you that through hard work, through commitment, through being a f*ck up… I’m a testimony that self-belief, putting yourself around the right people, don’t do drugs, don’t f*cking smoke cigarettes, don’t kill your health, don’t kill your body.
“If I can be any type of inspiration, I want people to care about their health and I want people to speak up if they’ve been abused or if they need help. But don’t go out there and pull the sympathy card. I never pulled the sympathy card,” Pyfer continued. “I told my story and that was it. I kept working. I kept training. I wasn’t asking for handouts, I went out and earned this sh*t.”
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