Jeremy Stephens was the recipient of an unfortunate eye poke courtesy of Yair Rodriguez last Sat. night (Sept. 21, 2019), forcing a quick end to their featherweight main event showdown at UFC Fight Night 159 in Mexico City, a mere 15 seconds into the fight.
Afterward, Rodriguez drew the ire of UFC fans for his hasty post-fight comments, suggesting “Lil’ Heathen’s” injury may not have been severe enough to warrant a stoppage — despite saying he was giving Stephens the benefit of the doubt.
“Pantera” was visibly upset with the stoppage (just ask Michal Bisping) and was apparently still heated a day later, as Stephens claims the two rivals were involved in a small scuffle inside the hotel lobby.
“I was bringing down my bags, checking my bags. So we were going to go grab some food and we were taking off. He comes up all cordial, gives me a thumbs up and is like ‘Everything okay?’ He comes up and shakes my hand and trying to be a gentleman, I get it. Then he starts talking shit to me,” said Stephens during an interview on Ariel Helwani’s MMA Show.
It’s something that caught Stephens completely off guard, especially since he thought “El Pantera” was trying to be a gentleman, only to flip the switch at the drop of a hat.
“Bro, I am not from karate school, I am from the streets,” he added. “I am here to compete, here to fight, here to kill you. Right away, my mentality was like, ‘Back the fuck up,’ so I shoved him. So his coaches, his dad and everybody were like, ‘Whoa, whoa, whoa.”
“I know his sister has footage. I was waiting for them to release that footage but I guarantee you they are not going to release it because you look like a coward there. I thought he was trying to be a gentleman but unfortunately, that wasn’t it.”
Stephens’ story likely won’t help Rodriguez endear himself to fans. That said, “Pantera” did speak to ESPN to briefly give his side.
“He pushed me like a little bitch,” Rodriguez said. “And I just told him, you will live the rest of your life with that in your head ... if you could continue and didn’t. Shame on you.”
Rodriguez is adamant the injury was not that severe and Stephens could have continued. That said, if medical tests — which he is willing to pay for — prove that “Lil’ Heathen” wasn’t lying, then “El Pantera” will gladly issue a public apology.
“I’m ready for the tests and the proof,” Rodriguez said. “If I’m wrong, I’ll apologize in public, no problem.”
Despite the bad blood, Stephens went on record to say he doesn’t believe Rodriguez is a dirty fighter, insisting the eye poke was simply a freak accident. Plus, he still hopes to run it back as soon as possible, though he wants the do-over to take place either in Boston, Washington, or New York, and not Mexico. Rodriguez, meanwhile, isn’t too keen on running it back right way.
Now, about that video footage...