Jack Hermansson is well aware of the optics surrounding his main event booking against Joe Pyfer on Saturday at UFC Fight Night 236.
Hermansson (23-8 MMA, 10-6 UFC), a longtime mainstay in the UFC middleweight rankings, is set to return from a career-long 14-month layoff when he meets the surging Pyfer (12-2 MMA, 3-0 UFC) in a five-round bout at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas (ESPN+).
On paper, it appears as though Pyfer, 27, is being positioned for a breakthrough. Hermansson, 35, meanwhile, is looking to hold down his spot against a fighter nearly eight years younger than him.
“You don’t want to be a gatekeeper to the younger guys, but when you lose a fight (like I did last time vs. Roman Dolidze), that’s what’s happening,” Hermansson told Aaron Bronsteter of Sportsnet. “I need to get back in there, win my fight and show everybody that I still belong at the top and that I can take on someone above me (in the rankings).”
Hermansson, No. 15 in the latest USA TODAY Sports/MMA Junkie middleweight rankings, said he’s not looking at the matchup with Pyfer as a setup for him to falter. He thinks that, because of its status as a main event, the UFC brass sees both participants with equal footing and upside.
“The fight is a main event. That was the most important thing to me with this fight,” Hermansson said. “If it wasn’t, then maybe I would’ve questioned it a little bit since he’s kind of inexperienced in the organization, but it’s a main event and we have the spotlight on us, so I think it’s a great opportunity.”
Pyfer has won his first three octagon appearances by stoppage going into UFC Fight Night 236. Hermansson, meanwhile, has alternated wins and losses over his past eight fights and hasn’t finished anyone since July 2020.
It’s Hermansson’s priority to get himself back on the winning side, and he expects a complete performance out of himself to accomplish the mission.
“I don’t feel like I need to prove I hit harder than him,” Hermansson said. “I think I need to prove that I’m better than him in other areas of the game than the power.”
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