His next stop will be as part of the Jake Paul vs. Nate Diaz pay-per-view, as Stephens faces Diaz’s longtime training partner Chris Avila in a featured bout. He hopes the fight could springboard him into even bigger and better opportunities in the future.
“I fell in love with the process of becoming the best boxer that I could be,” Stephens told MMA Fighting. “Because these opportunities are out there, these MMA guys, these fighters, they’re out there for the taking. I wanted a piece of that action.”
For all the MMA experience already on his résumé, Stephens concedes that he’s still learning to become a better boxer, which is why he’s taking a slow and steady approach to this new career.
That being said, Stephens loves the idea of matching himself against other MMA fighters who are trying to make the same transition, which is why the fight against Aldo made so much sense. The same could be said for Avila, who started out in MMA before making the move to boxing in recent years.
One particular fight that gets brought up often is a potential showdown against Conor McGregor, who jumped right into the deep end of the boxing pool when he fought Floyd Mayweather back in 2017. Following his draw with Aldo back in April, Stephens even briefly became a target for McGregor — the Irish superstar touted the idea for a fight and continued a war of words over social media, rekindling a past rivalry after a memorable encounter at a UFC press conference.
“I’ve always said I match up great with a guy like him,” Stephens said of McGregor. “But I feel like in the later rounds, he gets those wobbly legs and I pick up, I put on f****** pace. I can take a f****** shot. I do neck rolls like f****** ‘Iron’ Mike Tyson. I’ve got a jaw. I’ve got vicious power. Hands. Speed. Experience. F****** intellect.
“On Aug. 5, I’m going to put myself on the map and put myself in those opportunities just like we’re talking about. I’m doing the work and it’s all going to be mine on Aug. 5.”
Outside of the McGregor fight, Stephens is more than happy to pursue any of the other notable names out there, including Diaz, who will be making his boxing debut against Paul on Saturday.
Stephens had nothing but praise when addressing Diaz. He also gives the Stockton native a great chance to pull off the upset against Paul, who boasts a 6-1 boxing record with four knockouts along the way.
“Jake does have a little bit of boxing, athletic skill, he’s very explosive, he carries some power,” Stephens said. “He’s bringing a lot of eyes, but it’s a lot of pressure. On the opposite end of that, Nate’s been in these big fights. He can go the distance. He can take a shot and he’s actually a true f****** fighter. Like, he’ll get up and keep coming. He has that grit. I think that Jake Paul has a lot of that, but he’s just not a fighter. He may be hungry, but he’s not starving. A guy like Nate, I feel like later in the rounds [he] could definitely get the job done. It’s just, can he survive that explosiveness of Jake Paul? Can he survive those bombs that are going to come?
“I give the more intellect and experience to Nate in that sense. That’s why I’m like 50/50 [on who wins]. Tune in. It’s going to be a good one. It could go either way.”
Win, lose, or draw, Stephens would gladly accept a fight against Diaz afterward, especially since they spent years on the same roster in the UFC but never actually met in the cage.
“I would love that,” Stephens said. “I’m about to whoop a lighter version of a guy like Nate, so if that’s what’s next after Paul either lays him out or not, it’s just opportunity.”