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Yair Rodriguez gives Jeremy Stephens ‘benefit of the doubt’ on eye poke, ‘sad’ how fight ended

Yair Rodriguez was understandably upset following the end of his main event fight against Jeremy Stephens after an inadvertent eye-poke brought a stop to the contest just 15 seconds into the opening round.

The bout was declared a no-contest after Stephens was unable to open his eye. The crowd at the Mexico City Arena showered the Octagon with trash after a disappointing end to the night.

Rodriguez can’t say for certain how Stephens was feeling in that moment. But he’s going to defer to his opponent when it comes to his inability to continue following the eye-poke during the opening exchange.

“I feel sad,” Rodriguez said when speaking to MMA Fighting backstage. “I didn’t want this to happen. As I’m going to say again, I’m just going to give the benefit of the doubt to Jeremy Stephens. (He is) the only one who has to live with that in his mind – that doubt. It’s him. It’s only him. He’s the only one who knows how he feels.

“I have never been poked in the eye in a fight, but I have had a really bad eye. In the Frankie Edgar fight, my eye was completely closed. I couldn’t see nothing, but I was willing to keep on going. Not everybody’s the same. I don’t know how he was feeling, so (I give the) complete benefit of the doubt to Jeremy Stephens. Let’s see what happens. It’s sad.”

Backstage reports said that Stephens was still struggling to open his eye even as the medical staff attempted to treat him. He eventually left the arena wearing sunglasses.

As for Rodriguez, he was emotionally charged after the fight got stopped. He leapt on top of the cage before angrily approaching UFC color commentator Michael Bisping, who was in the Octagon to interview him.

“I went to jump on the cage and let people know I was there for them and that I was ready to fight, that I feel like a winner no matter what,” he said. “I kind of lost it a little — a lot. It was a lot of talking and stuff, and I really wanted to fight. That’s it. I really wanted to fight.

“You see my family, well dressed, just seeing my friends, (and) everybody’s paying a lot of money and a lot of time coming here and all my team. Everybody has babies, and (my team took) a lot of time out of their houses and [traveled to] a place that is an amazing place to be, but it’s also hard. It’s also hard just by the fact of sleeping there and being there. Even though it was my best training camp, it was hard for all of us at the same time. That was it. All of that was going into my head, I really wanted to fight. That’s it.”

The passionate fan base in Mexico celebrated Rodriguez, but sadly Stephens was bombarded with garbage as he left the Octagon with security rushing him backstage.

“It was a lot of pressure on Jeremy,” Rodriguez said about the crowd reaction. “Everybody turned on him. People wanted a war. I was ready to give them a war, and it didn’t happen.”

While Rodriguez didn’t intentionally poke Stephens in the eye, he still regrets how everything played out, because nobody wanted the fight to end that way — especially him.

“I don’t know if I should say sorry about what happened,” Rodriguez said. “It wasn’t my intention to poke his eye. All the benefit of the doubt to Jeremy Stephens.

“Just the way that it finished, I didn’t like it. I pray a lot to God, and if this is the way that he’s showing me that this was the way, I accept it.”

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