World Series of Fighting 3’s Joe Murphy is a laid-back dude. He’s a Huntington Beach resident, a metropolis known as “surf city” due to its excellent climate and surfer culture. A surfer himself, he personifies the relaxed nature of one, but that doesn’t mean it can’t go hand-in-hand with putting on exciting cage fights.

Murphy had wrestled and competed in various martial art disciplines since he was a teenager, but hadn’t considered it something that was a prelude to becoming a mixed martial artist. His first MMA fight in 2009–which was also his first professional contest–was something he just leaped into. Even with no specific training for the sport, Murphy tackled the challenge like it was a wave daring to be ridden.

“I had a lot of wrestling, jiu-jitsu and judo, and kind of just took [the fight] on a whim because they needed a replacement fighter around my size,” Murphy told The MMA Corner in an exclusive interview. “So I just jumped on in.”

“When I started competing in MMA and doing fights and stuff, it was more like a hobby to make some extra money on the side,” he explained. “As I kept winning and getting better fights its like a hobby that became a reality and now I’m really pursuing it and giving it 100 percent.”

With five of his six fights being secured by submission, it appears that Murphy’s extensive grappling background has served his MMA transition well. So much so that Murphy has won a fight without even having to throw a single punch, like he did against Rodney Rhoden in January of last year. He enjoys using the “gentle art” of jiu-jitsu as he laughingly described it, but doesn’t mean he’s hesitant to mix it up standing.

Murphy (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

You can find evidence of the Californian’s willingness to stand in his exciting fight with Ray Cervera at The Warriors Cage 12 event. Now settled at bantamweight, it was one of his two career fights that was contested at featherweight, and his first to go to a judges’ decision. It was a brawl that saw Murphy throwing counters and a variety of kicks that found their mark. What made the fight exciting was that it was battled on the feet and on the ground, which showed that he’s not just grappler with an incomplete MMA game. Just like his attitude towards joining MMA competition, it’s not that he needed to prove anything about his striking by displaying strong leg and high kicks in the fight, the opportunity was just there.

“No, I just–I dunno–I just felt like doing it,” Murphy coyly explained.

While Murphy has shown the ability to strike, of course, his comfort zone is fighting on the ground, where he’s most often found his opportunities to win the fight. He’s especially dangerous off of his back–a place where he can link submission attempts to end the fight.

“A very active guard and keep it clenched real tight when it’s close,” Murphy explained of his offense from the bottom position. “Always looking for submissions. I’m not just laying there waiting for the ref to stand us up, I’m trying to tap the guy out with chokes: submissions, or armbars. I know that really makes people uncomfortable when they’re on top of me. I don’t really take too much damage being on bottom because they’re more concerned with the guard that I’m using.”

From what we know about the issues with how fights are judged, it’s something that could possibly be counted against him if a fight goes to the cards and he’s spent a majority of time fighting from the bottom–whether he was more active than his opponent or not.

“Yeah, that is an issue that some judges do,” Murphy agreed. “But when you see how active and threatening I am, you know the guy took me down, but he ends up defending the whole time. The judges [have] to look at it the other way, because, yeah he got the takedown…that’s great, but now he’s defending [a] triangle, armbar, sweep, leglocks. I’m not just going for one armbar the whole time. I’m linking everything together until I catch something.”

“I’ve only been to one decision in my career,” he continued, referencing the fight with Cervera, “and yeah, I was on bottom, but I came around in the third round and I was attacking off that and I got the decision. The rest of [my fights], my guard was on point enough to not take it to the judges.”

With just four years in the sport, Murphy is now fighting in the World Series of Fighting promotion–which is quickly rising in stature in the promotional landscape–for its third ever event on Friday June 14, WSOF 3 – Fitch vs. Burkman 2. Making his debut for a name promotion is something that gives Murphy pride considering his humble MMA beginnings, and now that he’s in the big time, makes MMA something that he sees himself making a living doing.

“You go on Sherdog.com and you see the three main MMA shows [are] UFC, Bellator, and World Series of Fighting and it says “other” for all the other shows. Just being able to see that shows me that I made it somewhere already,” Murphy touted.

“The goal is just to live off of the sport. Not have to go back to college and get a 9-to-5 job for the rest of my life.”

Murphy (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

Greeting him to fight on the biggest stage of his career will be Carson Beebe, the younger brother of former WEC champion Chase Beebe, who also makes his promotional debut, and with a strong record of 13-2. Considering that it will be such a big opportunity for both, you’d assume that Murphy has a solid game plan and prediction of how he’s going to wow audiences in his television debut, right?

“It’s just a fight,” a relaxed Murphy said. “We’re [going to] go out there and fight whether it’s on the feet or on the ground, we’re just going to have fun and try to finish each other. There’s always a game plan, but we’re not playing football and running plays or anything; it’s a fight. You [have to] be able to adapt and that’s where you see the separation in levels in fighters, being able to adapt on the fly. You can’t be sticking to one thing in your head the whole time and forcing it because that’s when you make a mistake.”

There’s a saying in surfer culture: you can’t control the waves, but you can learn to surf. It seems that Murphy has done well for himself by following that expression. Life and its forces can be a raging monster, but if one can stay calm and learn to flow along with it, then the chances of succeeding increase.

You’d think an easygoing guy like Murphy wouldn’t engage in such violent back-and-forth affairs such as fighting, but you’d be wrong to assume that the two are incongruent. It’s when one chooses to engage in an attempt to conquer the various struggles he faces in life, that he finds peace, something Murphy has found for himself from all the time spent in the waters of the Pacific.

“The waves are pumping right now. We’re looking at big waves right now, it’s awesome,” Murphy said. “It’s good for my peace time. I’m away from the world and my cell phone. There’s nothing else going on; I’m just kind of relaxing, enjoying the ocean. Maybe be out there with friends and it’s my time, you know? Just get out there and be away from everything and just put life on pause for a few hours.”

Come Friday, expect Murphy to be ready to finish his fight and hope that it’s enough to receive a fight-night bonus. Just don’t assume he’s treating it all like a day at the beach. Well, maybe in some ways, but that’s the very thing that has served him well in getting to this point.

“That’s just me, I’m pretty relaxed. You’ll never see me pumped up and kicking the cage or stuff. I’m very mellow. I’m just out there staying calm and just handling work when it’s time to go.”

Joe would like to thank Club Jiu-Jitsu, Grandpa’s Boxing Gym, Team NOC, BSF supplements, Wushu Fight Gear, and Paradigm Sports Management

Top Photo: Joe Murphy (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

About The Author

David Massey
Staff Writer

David Massey studied Humanities and Art History at the University of Central Oklahoma. He first found interest in MMA from the first TUF show and has been hooked ever since. He began posting on mmajunkie then submitting Sunday Junkie entries and that began his interest in writing about MMA. Through twitter David found other MMA enthusiasts and began contributing articles to marqueemma.com. He looks forward to growing as a writer and being a part of the sport he loves.

  • Chris

    Nice interview David. Glad to see that Joe is getting some exposure, he’s got the potential to be a big star in the WSOF.