Jeremy Stephens had no ill will towards Yair Rodriguez after their fight ended in a no-contest following an inadvertent eye poke this past Saturday night. But his opinion is quickly changing.
The main event from Mexico City ended just 15 seconds into the fight after Rodriguez extended his hand towards Stephens during an exchange and accidentally raked his fingers across the eyes.
Stephens couldn’t open his eyes after the poke occurred, which eventually led to referee Herb Dean calling a stop to the contest. According to Stephens, it wasn’t until he made it to the hospital later that night when he was finally able to open his eye for the first time. Luckily, there was no permanent damage done.
“Everything’s all right,” Stephens said when speaking to MMA Fighting on Monday. “I’m going to the doctor later today to get this cleared and get (an) on-the-American-soil opinion and everything’s all good. It’s a little sore. I have a laceration, a small cut over both my eyes, but all in all nothing major, which is good.
“It’s one of them little freaky things. I’ve had my eye orbital broken in the Donald Cerrone fight, and that dude is a killer. Way more fierce than the karate kid (Yair Rodriguez), and it’s just one of those weird things, I can’t explain it. I’ve been in 50 fights, amateur and pro, and it’s one of those weird things. It just sucks.”
Two days later, Stephens says he isn’t experiencing any after effects from the eye poke, but he put off an anniversary celebration with his wife to return home so he could have doctors check him out.
“Nothing blurred [now],” Stephens said. “A little pain, it’s a little light sensitive, but other than that, my vision’s all right.”
On Sunday, as he was preparing to make his trip back home from Mexico, Stephens ran into Rodriguez in the host hotel. He thought he was going to receive an apology from his opponent and hoped they could move toward booking the rematch.
What happened next surprised Stephens, but it didn’t take him long to react.
“At first he came up with a thumbs up, I thought he was going to come over and be cordial and say, “I’m sorry, and let’s run it back,’” Stephens explained. “But he comes up, shakes my hand and then immediately starts talking s—t. Where I come from, you don’t do that, bro. I shoved him back across the hotel and I saw that his sister was recording with her phone, thinking they’re going to catch some little glimpse, or him talking s—t to me.
“He got shoved and once he got shoved, he didn’t even take a step forward. His family didn’t do s—t either. I was about to smack him and his coaches and anybody who came at me, but they all immediately backed up.”
As much as he already felt like there was unfinished business with Rodriguez, considering the anticlimactic way their fight ended, Stephens was that much more motivated after the physical altercation the next day.
“Let’s run it back,” Stephens said. “That’s what I was telling him. Bring it. I’m in shape, you’re in shape, we both spent money, we both lost money on this, now it’s a check raise. Now, more eyes are on the show. Come over and we do this on American soil, and let’s see how they treat you over here. Bring it on.”
While Stephens would relish the opportunity to face Rodriguez on one of the remaining cards in 2019 — preferably the upcoming show in Boston, UFC 244 in New York, or the UFC on ESPN card in Washington D.C. — he’s not so sure the rematch will happen.
“I guarantee you the kid doesn’t want it,” Stephens said about Rodriguez. “My bet money is that he doesn’t accept the fight, he bitches out and runs. That’s what he does. You saw how he acted after the win. He’s celebrating like he won over an eye poke. Who does that? The kid was nervous all week. I was up in his head, I’m still in his head, and he can either accept the fight or get the f—k out of my way.
“These are facts. I’ve never been cut from the UFC for not taking fights. I took a fight [against Zabit Magomedsharipov] when he wouldn’t take it. Who’s the bitch and who’s speaking real facts here? I pushed the kid and he didn’t do s—t.”
If Rodriguez doesn’t accept, Stephens isn’t going to sit around and wait for him, because he wants to fight again before the end of the year – no matter the opponent.
“People duck and dodge me all the time,” Stephens said. “Brian Ortega has ducked me four or five times. These guys don’t want to fight me. They have to fight me.
“It’s either Yair, or I have nothing attached to that and we move on. Either we fight or you shut the f—k up, and I continue to move forward.”