Jeremy Stephens rejuvenated by PFL move, sees it as a ‘step forward’

Jeremy Stephens is feeling great ahead of a new career chapter.

The longtime fighter makes his promotional debut on April 20 when he takes on Clay Collard in the 2022 PFL lightweight season. This will be Stephens’ (28-19) first fight outside of the UFC since 2007.

Stephens fought for the UFC for 15 years and amassed 33 fights in the company. The 35-year-old has had a long career with the Las Vegas-based organization, to say the least. He said he’s proud of what he’s built in the UFC, but is ready to move on.

“I had an amazing run with the UFC, but it’s just — in the end, I thought I didn’t fight frequently,” Stephens told MMA Junkie. “I had a lot to do at this time in my life. I just had to handle everything like I had to handle it. I felt like the best decision for me was to have something new, something refreshing, a golden opportunity.

“I feel like what I’ve done and what I’ve created in the UFC, I have my own name and my own followers and people listening. I’m thrilled with this rejuvenation and of this recreation of Jeremy ‘Lil’ Heathen’ Stephens. I’m still the same savage as I am. I’m excited for this opportunity and it’s a step up for me.

The move to the PFL doesn’t just come with a new stage and opponents to fight. It also gives Stephens a shot at a million dollar prize, as well as the title, if he wins the playoff tournament.

For Stephens, it’s “life changing” money and part of the decision to leave the UFC.

“The best decision for me and my family is PFL,” Stephens said. “We are heading for new fights, exciting adventures and new opportunities. And when all is said and done, brick by brick, it’s a million dollar hit. Who doesn’t want to take that? I am a risk taker. Everyone knows I like swinging for the fences, and I’ve made a career out of it.

“I was able to support my family (thanks to) a lot of the bonuses I received – not by being paid by the UFC. The salary I earned was more the (how) I could fight and I could live off my bonuses.

With the UFC chapter officially closed, Stephens walks away with many fond memories. He earned 10 post-fight bonus awards, headlined five UFC events and shared the cage with some of the best fighters in the world, including Jose Aldo, Max Holloway, Frankie Edgar, Charles Oliveira, Gilbert Melendez and Anthony Pettis.

Of all the experiences, Stephens thinks his flying knee knockout win at UFC 189 could be the highlight of his UFC career.

“One of the greatest moments I can remember that was amazing was when I robbed Dennis Bermudez on his knees,” Stephens said. “I had to shake the boss’s hand afterwards, jump over the fence, flex Arnold Schwarzenegger, take pictures in the back, travel.

“I actually moved back to San Diego because my dad and a lot of family had come to San Diego to visit me, so we came back. It was just an amazing experience. Conor McGregor fought on the card. The Irish fans, I think they are the best fans in the world. They come down your hotel lobby at 9am and they’re as respectful as they can be, calling you a legend. They took care of my grandmother just because she’s my grandmother. It was a really amazing atmosphere. »

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