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Jeremy Stephens wanted ‘favorable’ match up prior to UFC departure — ‘I’ve been fighting beasts’

UFC Fight Night: Vieira v Stoltzfus Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

Jeremy Stephens had quite a run in Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC).

The 35-year-old knockout artist entered the promotion in 2007 where he suffered his second career defeat to Din Thomas. A wild 34 fights later and “Lil Heathen” now finds himself off to Professional Fighters League (PFL).

Leaving UFC wasn’t Stephens’ intention, though. The Des Moines, Iowa, native has fought some of the very best names the sport has to offer over the years. Ranging from future or former champions like Jose Aldo, Frankie Edgar, Max Holloway, Charles Oliveira and Anthony Pettis, to rising newcomers such as Mateusz Gamrot and Zabit Magomedsharipov.

Stephens never backed down from whoever was put in his way and he believes that deserved some recognition.

“I asked [the UFC] to give me a favorable match up,” Stephens said on MMA Fighting’s The MMA Hour. “I’ve been fighting beasts, a murderers’ row for two decades, and I just felt like I was getting iced out. Only fighting once a year, that’s not good on the bank account. I’m just trying to be typical, just like you — I’m trying to provide for my family, and the only way I can do that is to fight, and they weren’t really fighting me.”

Stephens only managed to fight once in 2021 and 2020. He was a model of consistency every year prior, however, as he frequently managed to compete twice and sometimes even thrice per year.

“You know how hard it is to fight on one paycheck once a year?” Stephens said. “I’m just like any normal human being. I just want an opportunity to go to work, earn my paycheck. I felt like I deserved that. I’ve earned that right. I’ve fought nothing but the best. Two-week notice, main event? Take the fight. Back-to-back, take the fight. I’ve done everything for that company and I don’t feel like they had my back in return in giving me a favorable matchup. I feel like anybody from the outside looking in would be like, ‘Damn, why don’t you give Jeremy a f—king favorable matchup?’ Michael Johnson, Cerrone, Jim Miller, somebody who has been around as long as him, and let’s see how I do then. You’re giving me top beasts.”

Feb. 2018 marked Stephens’ (28-19, 1 NC) last victory when he scored a second-round knockout of Josh Emmett. Since then, it’s been tough sledding as he’s gone winless (0-5) along with one “No Contest.”

With the PFL’s 2022 season set to kick off in April, Stephens has plenty of time to prepare for whoever is next. The potential is there for a Pettis rematch, a fight Stephens (and fans alike) have already pondered.

Regardless, a potential career resurgence with $1 million at the end of the tunnel doesn’t sound all too bad.

“My big bro, Anthony Johnson, he got cut from UFC, he turned his career around, and that’s what I’m looking to do,” Stephens said. “I’m inspired by those types of people. Turn it around and that million dollars is going to look real f—king nice when it’s in my bank account.”