Featherweight staple Jeremy Stephens will try to get back into the divisional win column later tonight (Sat., Sept. 21, 2019) at UFC Fight Night 159 live on ESPN+ from inside Arena Ciudad de Mexico in Mexico City, when he takes on promising contender and top-flight finisher Yair Rodriguez.
Stephens, who is coming off losses to former featherweight champion Jose Aldo and streaking Russian Zabit Magomedsharipov, will be headlining his third UFC event since the beginning of 2018. That means UFC trusts “Lil Heathen” to get the job done when it matters most, and matching him up against a dangerous striker like Rodriguez will produce even more fireworks later tonight.
But with so much on the line in his return to the Octagon how exactly did Stephens prepare for UFC Mexico City? Having UFC lightweight contender Tony Ferguson in his camp and forcing him to push himself physically probably didn’t hurt.
“We’re chilling out, watching ‘Rocky IV,’ and he’s like, ‘Let’s hit this run,’” Stephens said of Ferguson during UFC Mexico City’s media day earlier this week (h/t MMA Junkie).” I thought he was (expletive) joking. I’m like, ‘OK, we’re not going to run. He’s tired.’ Sure enough, midnight hits, and we go off on this run.
“It’s like 1 in the morning, and I’m running up this hill, and he’s like, ‘Bro, I need you to sprint up this (expletive) hill, bro. Everything you’ve got.’ I’m like, ‘OK.’ I’m tired. I actually ran in the morning and then went and trained with him.”
Luckily for Stephens, Ferguson’s motivation didn’t stop there. He offered the 33-year-old veteran something he couldn’t find anywhere else.
“So I’m running up this hill, and ‘El Cucuy,’ the boogeyman, is like, ‘I’m going to get you! I’m going to get you!’” Stephens said. “I’m (expletive) running my ass off, bro. He’s actually coming! He’s coming up the hill. He’s trying to chase me. He’s like, ‘Don’t let me catch you! I’m going to get you!’
“The boogeyman is screaming at me. Like, what the (expletive)?”
Having competed in UFC since 2007 Stephens has been around countless fighters throughout countless training camps. But to train alongside the likes of “El Cucuy” leading up to one of the most important fights of his career Stephens seems more ready than ever to prove his worth.
“Tremendous experience,” Stephens said. “I had a smile on my face the whole time I sprinted up that hill. He gave me the best compliment I think anybody could give me. He says, ‘Man, you’re in (expletive) phenomenal shape.’
“For ‘El Cucuy’ to tell you that six weeks out from a fight? We’re ready, bro.”
Remember, MMAmania.com will offer LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 159 event this Saturday (click here), starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” at 5 p.m. ET and continuing on with the 8 p.m. ET main card.