UFC Orlando’s Jeremy Stephens Addresses Illegal Knee, Says “Rankings are Way Out of Whack”

UFC 215 Jeremy Stephens UFC Orlando
Credit: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com

UFC on FOX 28’s Jeremy Stephens gives his side of the story regarding his controversial finish of Josh Emmett.

Jeremy Stephens picked up a big win Saturday night at UFC on FOX 28. He also picked up a win that was mired in controversy. That’s thanks to a finishing sequence that included a potentially illegal knee to the head of opponent Josh Emmett, plus some questionable elbows to the back of Emmett’s head. It’s not a clear cut situation: Emmett is moving throughout the sequence, and where he was positioned when the elbows landed may not have been where he was when Stephens launched them, for example.

Of course, the rules don’t cover intent. That’s only to say that Stephens likely didn’t intentionally target the back of the head. The knee, meanwhile, is another consideration. And it appears that, once again, there’s massive confusion as to what the new Unified Rules of MMA are trying to say. According to Stephens, speaking on the UFC on FOX 28 post-fight show, ref Big Dan Mirgliotta informed fighters backstage that “‘if two hands are down, you can lift one hand up to knee. That’s okay.’ So if he’s on his knees and one hand is up, it’s okay to throw a knee.”

The problem with that interpretation is that it’s ignoring the fact that Emmett was on his knees. The rule, in regards to hands being down, was more along the lines of preventing fighters from gaming the system by sticking their hands on the mat while standing bent over. An opponent on his knees is still an opponent on his knees, and Stephens’ explanation of the rule isn’t doing him any favors. Though it appears the ref’s pre-fight instructions caused the confusion.

“I’m not a dirty fighter, I never have been my whole life. I saw an opportunity, I was looking for it. I don’t even think I landed the knee, it was the left hand that dropped him,” Stephens added. He also stated he didn’t feel the knee landed. “No I didn’t. I’m in the moment right there.”

It’s important to remember that under any rule set, a fighter on his knees is a grounded opponent. However, it’s up to the ref to make the call, something that didn’t happen Saturday. Stephens also addressed the elbows post-fight, and again insisted he wasn’t a dirty fighter. Ultimately, it does appear more of a miscommunication by the ref combined with being in the heat of the moment, which should make it interesting if Emmett does in fact appeal the result.

In a separate post-fight interview with the UFC’s Megan Olivi, Stephens also addressed his ever-improving skill set, likening his development as a fighter to cooking a good stew. “Once you wait long enough,” he explained, “even though you’re really, really hungry, if you wait til the right moment, like at your grandma’s house, it turns into the best recipe.”

Stephens had been ranked eighth in the division, and Emmett at fourth, heading into the fight. When asked about where he expected to stand after the big win, Stephens replied that “if you ask me, the rankings are way out of whack.”

Still, he pointed out that “that puts me right there” — and he estimates there’s only three fighters in front of him, including Brian Ortega and Frankie Edgar.


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