Greater than a decade after his first UFC look and over a dozen years into his combined martial arts profession, Jeremy Stephens is lastly placing all of it collectively.
The Midwest powerhouse made his Octagon debut on his twenty first birthday, struggling the second lack of his profession, getting caught in an armbar towards Din Thomas at UFC seventy one. 4 months later, he collected his first UFC victory, defeating Diego Saraiva by unanimous determination at UFC seventy six.
He’s been a fixture ever since and has hovered round .500 all the time, which is a testomony to Stephens’ resolve and the reliably thrilling type he carries to the cage with him each day trip.
“I really like what I do. I’m actually keen about how I strategy issues and I really like preventing,” stated Stephens, who’s 14-thirteen within the UFC cage heading into this weekend’s foremost occasion task towards Josh Emmett on FOX. “Any day might be the final one, so I strategy it accordingly.
“I do all the proper issues which are needed and I’m a performer; that’s my pure fashion. I don’t attempt to go on the market and be one thing I’m not. If my day comes the place they reduce me, I assume it’s my time, however I’m very passionate and I really like what I do.”
Stephens spent the primary a number of years of his UFC tenure competing within the treacherous light-weight division, taking on each robust out and gifted fighter the group might put in entrance of him.
He welcomed future champions Rafael dos Anjos and Anthony Pettis to the UFC. He shared the cage with veterans like Thomas, Spencer Fisher and Yves Edwards. He went the space with fellow gunslingers like Sam Stout and Donald Cerrone, by no means profitable greater than two straight, whereas delivering credible performances each time he did come out on the improper aspect of issues.
Following the primary and solely knockout lack of his profession in December 2012, Stephens relocated to the featherweight ranks, the place he’s turn out to be a Prime-10 fixture whereas persevering with to sq. off with a set of the highest rivals within the division each day trip.
“I’m a fighter’s fighter,” stated Stephens, giving a succinct take on what has made him a fundamental card staple and steadily referred to as upon competitor for greater than a decade. “I’m somebody the followers love to watch. They know that when Jeremy Stephens is in there, he’s like Babe Ruth — he’s swinging for the fences and hitting residence runs.
“I’m not some mediocre man that goes in there and tries to level-battle and lay on individuals; I’m swinging for residence runs and making an attempt to knock your tooth out.”
Regardless of being forty one fights deep into his profession, the 31-yr-previous Alliance MMA trainee enters this weekend’s headline pairing with Emmett in the perfect type of his profession.
After beginning his 2017 marketing campaign with a slender cut up choice loss to Renato Moicano, Stephens rebounded by hobbling Gilbert Melendez within the former Strikeforce light-weight champion’s debut within the division. 4 months later, he started 2018 with a bang by stopping “The Korean Tremendous Boy,” Doo Ho Choi, within the second spherical of their foremost occasion pairing in St. Louis.
“I credit that win to (Alliance MMA head coach) Eric Del Fierro as a result of in that second spherical, every part that he advised me to do was the appropriate approach to go on there and get that victory and we took him out within the second spherical,” he stated of his victory over Choi. “It was all due to Eric and his information on issues and his capacity to play Mortal Kombat with Jeremy Stephens as his favourite fighter. He guided me proper into that win.”
Whereas Del Fierro’s recommendation within the nook and recreation plan for dealing with Choi might have been good, Stephens’ execution was spot-on and has been the important thing to his current run of success, the perfect stretch of his UFC profession to date.
Make no mistake, Stephens nonetheless brandishes vital energy and is able to ending a struggle in some ways, at any time, however the man who charged throughout the cage and turned out dos Anjos’ lights with a Shoryuken lower than a minute into the third spherical of their conflict at UFC ninety one and the man who dropped Choi 4 weeks in the past are two very totally different fighters.
The previous was uncooked and unpolished, aggressive to a fault at occasions; a brawler who actually did swing for the fences each time he stepped up to the plate.
The latter stays a house run menace, however he’s additionally far more cognizant of the truth that a single into proper that permits the runner to go from first to third might be equally efficient and that working the rely into your favor typically leads to getting one thing ripe over the center of the plate you possibly can park into the seats.
Towards Melendez, he ravaged his lead leg and cracked house clear photographs because the veteran’s mobility turned compromised. It was quarter-hour of singles and doubles that became a blowout the place nobody would have complained if the Mercy Rule had invoked.
Towards Choi, he regrouped after dropping the primary spherical, patiently ready for the fitting alternative and touchdown flush when it was introduced. It wasn’t a no-doubter, however it managed to clear the fence.
“You’re saying an excessive amount of,” laughed Stephens when requested about his evolution and skill to mix his blistering energy with a extra tactical strategy. “You’re gifting away my secrets and techniques, man.”
Jokes apart, Stephens is aware of his means to entertain each trip has not solely contributed to his longevity on the roster, however factored into getting hustled again into the cage for a second straight most important occasion task this weekend.
And he intends to maintain bringing that very same depth and hearth when the cage door closes on Saturday night time on FOX.
“I’ve been begging the UFC to get me fights for a very long time and maintain this kind of tempo going,” Stephens stated of creating the fast return to motion. “I do know you’re not going to struggle each month, however I would really like to struggle no less than 3 times a yr.
“I’ve solely been preventing twice a yr for the longest time. I used to be in nice form, I didn’t get an opportunity to blow up in weight, so I’m benefiting from an excellent alternative that’s coming my method and I plan on seizing the second.
“It means every thing,” he added with regard to headlining on FOX. “It means the UFC is believing in me and trusting in me extra. They know they wanted a major occasion, someone that would carry out and convey the kind of numbers that I convey and it’s not as a result of I’m going in there and trash speak — it’s as a result of individuals love my preventing fashion.”
As for how he sees issues enjoying out between he and Emmett, Stephens was complimentary of his opponent, however made it clear he has designs on persevering with his hot streak.
“I anticipate an incredible aggressive matchup,” he stated of Emmett, who trains at Group Alpha Male and enters off a primary-spherical knockout win over Ricardo Lamas in December. “I do know he comes from a fantastic camp and I do know he’ll be properly-educated, nicely-ready, however I’m gonna break him.”
E. Spencer Kyte covers combined martial arts for Sporting Information and Province Sports activities. Comply with him on Twitter: @spencerkyte.