For a guy who likes to stay busy, it’s been a long time away for Jeremy Stephens, who has fought just once in the past year prior to UFC Vegas 24 this Saturday.
“Lil Heathen,” however, acknowledged during this week’s media day that “it was good to take a step back.”
“I had to do some mental stuff. I had a lot of things to really close out personally. I’ve been doing a lot of different type of work outside of this, and it’s been really good for me,” Stephens (28-18, 1NC), with the UFC since 2007, stated. “I’ve really left no stone unturned. I had a lot of personal stuff going on, it was a good year to take off, take some time, and really set myself up for success.”
Among those personal issues, Stephens stopped drinking, in order to help tackle his relationship with his mother, a longtime drug user who nearly died prior to his fight with Calvin Kattar.
Now, Stephens is returning, stronger, to a new weight class. Well, not new, exactly, but after spending time at featherweight, Stephens will once again compete at 155lbs.
“I’m not a spring chicken no more, so the weight cuts definitely get a little bit harder as I go on. Cutting 35lbs, dry heaving…” Stephens even pointed to his weight cut as the culprit behind his loss to Jose Aldo. But he expects to be able to retain his power even as he moves up a division. “The power’s there, nothing changes, it’s adding a little bit more flavor here at 55. So I’m excited to come back here and put on a show for you guys.”
Putting on a show is likely why Stephens is in the co-main event at UFC Vegas 24 this weekend. There, he’s been matched up with the younger, promising Drakkar Klose. Stephens always seems to have entertaining fights, but while he takes pride in the promotion recognizing that and booking him in key bouts “it’s not about the show,” he stated.
“Come Saturday night, it’s all about the win. Win, win, win, no matter what, and having my hand raised. I don’t like going out there and being one of those performance guys, ‘oh I still put on a f*cking show,'” said Stephens, noting that “I’ve got a family to feed, bro. I’m not making top dollar like I should be. I’m not making these red panty nights. I’m moving up in the division because I want these exciting fights, I want these match-ups.”
There’s no title pursuit intentions with Stephens, who said bluntly “f*ck a belt, I’m looking to fight a Nate Diaz, a Conor McGregor, and calf kick him clear the f*ck out of here as well.”
Jeremy Stephens faces Drakkar Klose in the co-main event of UFC Vegas 24 on Saturday, April 17. The event airs live on ESPN (TSN in Canada).