With the recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic underway, sports fans around the world have collectively rejoiced as live entertainment has been slowly returning. Largely due to the limited number of participants and bounded inter-personal interactions, mixed martial arts has been at the forefront of this resurgence. One of the Gulf Coast’s most long-standing promotions, Atlas Fights, looks to host its third event post-pandemic, Saturday, September 12th, from the Mississippi Coast Coliseum.
Fighting out of Fusion X-Cel, located right outside of Orlando, Florida, Joe “The Party” Penafiel will be making his way to Biloxi as one of the showcased fighters for this event. He is scheduled to square up with Jason Cefalu for the Atlas Fights Flyweight title, so we decided to catch up with Joe to see what he’s been up to since his last fight, and to see what he plans on bringing to the party.
Every superhero has an origin story. What’s yours? Where do you come from? What got you into fighting?
My origin story is one of a young immigrant boy from Ecuador, who fighting came to find him! I was always the one to put my hands up and defend my honor and respect, or my friends. My family always tells the story of my mother’s younger cousin who I grew up with, who (took me when I was 3 years old) to the corner to fight another 3 year old.
“My biggest strength is my unpredictability – plus my heart, my will and a desire that burns deep inside me.”
You’re training out of Fusion X-Cel? What’s the culture like there?
Yes, I train out of Fusion X-Cel, and there’s a strong fighting culture there with a strong hint of family, to make the cocktail a little more dynamic. I would say it feels like home because the personalities (there) contrast from the quiet to the brash. It’s all about hard work and dedication over at Fusion and every training partner is essential, from the beginner to the most-seasoned. Julien Williams is our driving force and MMA savant. He pours his time and effort into all of his fighters, all while being a married man and father of two.
What do you like most about fighting? What do you feel is your biggest strength?
The thing I like the most about fighting is the competitive aspect of it, and the chance to call myself the best. My biggest strength is my unpredictability – plus my heart, my will and a desire that burns deep inside me. I want to prove that I’m the best, or at least die trying.
“I know what hard work is, and I know how hard the best of the best work.”
What was it like the first time that you stepped into the cage? What was going through your mind?
The first time I stepped into a cage it was actually a ring in Daytona for an amateur promotion inside a hotel banquet room. It felt familiar to me because of my wrestling experience, but it had an added bit of adrenaline and fear because of the danger. I knew I was preparing to physically harm someone, and that I would have to take some pain as well, in order to win.
Through your amateur and pro career, you’ve racked up 10 wins and only 2 losses. To what do you most attribute your success in the cage?
My success in the cage comes from my training as a young kid in wrestling. I know what hard work is, and I know how hard the best of the best work. I also always try to keep my mind open to adjustment and try to improve my skills and overall fight IQ.
Saturday, September 12th you’re going to be fighting Jason Cefalu for Atlas Fights in Biloxi, Mississippi! What do you know about Jason? What do you think he brings to this fight, and what have you been doing to prepare?
Jason is a nice guy who, actually the only time I fought in Biloxi, he was fighting on the same card also. He was very nice, and I remember his people were, too. They were the only ones cheering for me when I fought. I think he’s bringing a lot to the fight. I only worry about myself and what I can control. I’ve been pushing it hard cardio-wise in order to be ready, but at the same time allowing time to recover and replenish my overall vitality. I’ve been working on boxing, and also diving into a swimming regiment, plus keeping up on my running.
You and your team have an 8-hour ride in to Biloxi for the fights! What do you typically do to relax on those long trips?
I usually just chill on long rides and jam out to tunes. I like to stop and make sure everyone is nice and full. It’s pretty much like car karaoke all the way there, mixed in with The Voice.
“I would tell a young fighter that this is a marathon not a sprint. Be smart, choose the right training partners to work with, and find the right gym for the right time in your life.”
It’s been over a year since your last fight. Is there any particular reason for the layoff, or is that just how it worked out with timing and Covid?
I haven’t fought in a year mostly because I broke my hand my last fight, and I had to have surgery, which took a bit to recover from. Then we got hit with this pandemic thing.
How have you been staying sane during the Covid-19 pandemic and the quarantine? Has it affected your training at all?
I stay sane during the Covid thing because of my kids, and I have to be there to take care of them and their needs. They need me to get their breakfast and teach them life skills, from crossing the road to closing their mouths when they chew. I also train wherever I am, whenever I can.
You’ve been at this since 2011! What’s the best piece of advice that you could give to a young fighter just starting out?
I would tell a young fighter that this is a marathon not a sprint. Be smart, choose the right training partners to work with, and find the right gym for the right time in your life. Never be afraid to seek help or information from different coaches or teachers.
What’s next for Joe “The Party” Penafiel?
What’s next for me? I don’t know, I’m not God, but my plan is to make money to support my family the only way I love doing it. I love competing and I love my family even more! I just want to be able to do both at a high level. I’ve worked a long time for mine, and my family deserves it.
Anything that you want to plug?
Id like to plug my friends at ABC Prosthetic and Orthotics, also Fusion X-Cel and its staff of coaches, Julien Williams, Bruno Antunes and Mike Sgroi.
Listen to Joe Penafiel on episode 3 of the Fight Sport Focus Podcast:
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If you liked this article, don’t forget to share, like and subscribe – and go ahead and like our Facebook page and follow us on Instagram and Twitter @fightsportfocus. Also, like and subscribe to the Fight Sport Focus podcast on Anchor.fm, Spotify, iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts! You can catch Joe battle it out with Jason Cefalu for the Atlas Fights Flyweight title at Atlas Fights Biloxi MMA Beach Bash on Saturday, September 12th, from the Mississippi Coast Coliseum in Biloxi, Mississippi. To purchase tickets, please visit http://www.atlasfights.com/ or http://www.mscoastcoliseum.com.