Jeremy Stephens was a convenient punchline years ago when Conor McGregor famously asked "who the fuck is that guy!?," during a press conference, but now he's on a path to making a serious case to his 2016 claim that he's the hardest hitting 145-pounder.
That path leads to former UFC Featherweight Champion Jose Aldo on July 28 in Calgary, but almost saw him step in to fight any number of opponents earlier this month at UFC 226. When current champion Max Holloway was forced to withdraw from yet another fight (against Brian Ortega), Stephens was on call.
"I got a call on a Wednesday night and they told me to stay ready, that I'm next in line if anything were to happen," Stephens recalls. "Getting into fight week I didn't think anything was going to go on, I didn't think much of it. We get a call Wednesday and they say Max is out, and (I'm) fighting Brian Ortega. I end up running that night and didn't hear anything back. I talk to Sean Shelby (UFC Matchmaker) and he says 'I'd love to have you out there.'"
Stephens says that he told Shelby he'd start cutting weight in the event that the UFC needed him. Pretty quickly, he was thrown another curve ball.
"One in the morning, my coach is blowing me up. Brian's out of the fight, (I'm) fighting Frankie Edgar for the interim title. Sweet, no problem. I didn't really sleep much, got up in the morning, crush out a workout and was under 159 pounds. Later on, I get a call, and they're like 'fight's off, neither Frankie or Brian wanted it.' It was a win-win-win, I have the chance on July 28, the opportunity for an interim or the chance to knock someone the fuck out. I look at it as a plus," said Stephens.
Now, Stephens hopes to grasp that original opportunity in a headline slot this Saturday night against one of the greatest featherweights of all-time.
In the full interview, Jeremy Stephens (28-14) discusses his upcoming fight against Jose Aldo (26-4) at UFC on FOX 30 on July 28.