Jeremy Stephens’ fiery emotional state ahead of UFC Boston is showing weakness, says opponent/rival Yair Rodriguez.
Boston, MA — The co-main event at UFC Boston has a chance to steal the show Friday night. Somehow, the rematch between Jeremy Stephens and Yair Rodriguez, just weeks after their first meeting at UFC Mexico City ended in an eye poke, feels like the bigger fight.
It’s likely because the bout has turned into a grudge match. Mexican fans pelted Stephens with debris when he was unable to continue in their first fight, back in September. He was, allegedly, struck by at least one fan.
The bad blood between the two began to boil almost immediately after, with Rodriguez suggesting his opponent wanted out of the fight, which was just seconds in. Stephens remains fired up, but for Yair Rodriguez, he doesn’t have an issue keeping his emotions in check. He told reporters including Cageside Press just that at the UFC Boston media day this week, answering “I don’t think so” when asked if there would be any difficulty in terms of emotions.
“No. I think we all deal wit that. We all have things to deal with,” he added. As for Stephens reported emotional state, “I have my own battles to deal with,” said Rodriguez. “I’m not dealing with his issues as well. I’m just doing the best I can do with what I have. That’s it.”
Jeremy Stephens, never one to mince words, went on record this week saying that if he doesn’t kill Rodriguez, it’s not a win. Yair’s response was simple.
“I’m telling you bro, everyone has his own battles to deal with. If he thinks that way, then god bless him, because he’s in deep sh*t,” the featherweight retorted.
Rodriguez has some concern that unchecked emotion will take Stephens off his game. “I think he already has a lot of problems in his life. Stuff that he has to deal with. I don’t even want to really keep on pushing too much into his head. I want him fresh for this fight because he’s a tough opponent and I don’t want him to be weak,” explained Rodriguez. “He’s just showing me that he’s weak, and I want him fresh. I want you fresh, bro.”
Stephens has been calling himself a Bad MotherF*cker (the UFC makes belts for that these days, so maybe it’s an angle) ahead of the Boston card. He’s said that Rodriguez himself is no such creature. Yair responded by stating that “I think there’s two kinds of people: those who kick somebody when they see the floor, and those who doesn’t. I’m not one of those guys. I don’t kick nobody whenever they see the floor.”
“If he likes to do that, fine. We’re fighters. We’re fighting anyway,” Rodriguez added. “In my career as a martial artist, something I have learned is that we’re competitors. He can think he’s a killer or he can think whatever he wants. We’re just competing.”
Outside of the personal grudge between the two, the biggest story coming out of the pair’s first meeting at UFC Mexico City was the boorish behavior of the crowd. Asked for his thoughts on the situation and whether it might impact the UFC returning to Mexico City, Rodriguez said that “I don’t think people’s reaction was the most proper, but I couldn’t do nothing about it. I didn’t tell them ‘punch him.’ I didn’t tell the fans ‘throw sh*t at him, throw things at him.’ It was people’s reactions, before even I started speaking on the microphone. If you watch the replay, I say ‘remain calm.'”
Rodriguez also brushed off criticism that perhaps he could have done more.
“I think I did [try to calm people] with what I said, but he was already out of the place when I got the microphone. Watch the replays again. People started throwing stuff before I even started talking or doing anything,” Rodriguez said in his defense. “I don’t think it was the best reaction, but it was the most natural reaction.”
Watch the full UFC Boston media day press scrum with Yair Rodriguez above! UFC Boston (UFC on ESPN 6) takes place Friday, October 18 at the TD Garden in Boston, MA.