The last name Stoltzfus is common among the Amish population in Lancaster County. So it’s no surprise, then, to learn Dustin Stoltzfus, a 2010 Lampeter-Strasburg grad, is the son of parents who grew up Amish.
“They were both non-Amish by the time they met,” Stoltzfus said. “So we grew up normally with heavy ties to the traditional PA Dutch subculture. We were all instilled with a strong work ethic and know how to get dirty and get things done.”
It’s a work ethic Stoltuzfus has applied to a seven-year pro mixed martial arts career that has the potential to take a dramatic turn in the coming days. Stoltzfus, 28, is set to compete on UFC’s Contender Series in the main event of its Aug. 11 episode, airing on ESPN+ beginning at 8 p.m. The series, in its fourth season, is essentially a showcase for up and coming fighters hoping to perform well enough to earn a UFC contract.
“This is a huge deal for me,” Stoltzfus said. “We were expecting to have to prove ourselves on the international stage first, but if I pull this off, my chances of coming directly into the UFC are really good. And that is the goal for just about every fighter out there.”
If this is the first you’re hearing of Stoltzfus, it might be because he’s mostly been living in Germany since 2014.
“I live and train in a little town called Germersheim, Germany,” Stoltzfus said. “Coincidentally, near Mannheim, Germany, and Strasbourg, France, the namesakes of Manheim and Strasburg.”
You might also not be familiar with Stoltzfus because he didn’t play sports during his prep days at L-S.
“I started off in kindergarten with baseball,” he said. “I wrestled for three years in elementary school, then switched my focus to football in middle school. ... But had to stop that after I started developing knee problems at the end of ninth grade. That’s when I made the switch to martial arts.”
The seeds of a mixed martial arts career were first planted in Stoltzfus as a child training at Mimidis Karate in East Hempfield Township. After high school, he earned a bachelor’s degree in foreign language (German) at Middle Tennessee State University, while training in the karate-based Korean martial art Tang Soo Do, Brazilian jiu-jitsu and dabbling in kung fu, boxing and capoeira, an Afro-Brazilian martial art.
“I saw some UFC fights on Spike TV,” he said. “And immediately recognized it for what it was, the accumulation of everything I had trained. I had to try it out.”
Stoltzfus went to Google, typed in, “MMA in Pennsylvania,” found an upcoming fight near Lancaster, emailed the promoter, and was immediately booked to fight Sept. 9, 2012, against Penn Manor and Millersville University alum Brandon Vernalli, who is now Penn Manor's wrestling coach. Vernalli ended up winning.
“(Vernalli) was able to take me down at some point every round and won the decision,” Stoltzfus said. “But I was hooked. I needed to try it again.”
Stoltzfus dominated his next three amateur fights and turned pro in 2014.
“The beginning of my pro MMA career was very fast,” he said. “I prepared for five fights in five months, at the end of which I picked up my first and only pro MMA loss. After that I decided to take more time between fights.”
He also dropped down to middleweight (171 pounds to 185 pounds) and underwent knee surgery in 2016. He’s won his last seven bouts, and now has a career 12-1 record.
The Aug. 11 meeting in Las Vegas is between a pair of fighters with Pennsylvania ties, as Stoltzfus’s opponent is Joseph Pyfer, who was a qualifier in the 2015 PIAA wrestling tournament out of District One’s Penncrest. The 6-foot, 1-inch Pyfer, 23, has a career 7-1 record since turning pro in 2016. He’s nicknamed, “Bodybagz,” due to his four KOs, three of them in the first round, along with a first-round submission.
”I don’t now too much about him (Pyfer),” Stoltzfus said. “I’ve watched his fights, but that’s all I know about him. I do think it is amusing that I am being flown in to fight someone from just around the corner of my hometown.”
A hometown Stoltzfus is proud to represent.
“I’ve taken a bit of a scenic route to get where I am right now,” he said. “But I hope to show MMA fans in the states and especially in the Lancaster/greater Philly area who I am and what I can do. And I’m looking forward to putting on a show and putting Lancaster on the MMA map.”
@wlmma‘s middleweight champion and someone we hope will make a splash at @danawhite‘s Contenders series, here’s @DustinStoltzfus `s first submission win.— We love MMA (@wlmma) July 19, 2020
Video: @ramareddy_mma #mma #welovemma #bjj #submission #mmachampion #mmabreakdown #fight #fight #bjjtechnique #kneebar pic.twitter.com/GWqty7T8qi