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Thursday, 06/19/2014, 03:57 pm

EXCLUSIVE | Jeremy Stephens: ‘I never gave up, now i’m fighting for a contender slot’

By Connor Woodard

Despite what appears to be a fairly up-and-down record in the UFC, Jeremy Stephens (23-9, 10-7 UFC), has battled his way to a number one contenders match against Cub Swanson (20-5,5-1 UFC) at UFC Fight Night 44 in San Antonio, Texas. Stephens largely credits his improvements to a full-time move to Alliance MMA, which has produced great fighters such as Dominick Cruz, Alexander Gustafsson, and Michael Chandler.

“I eventually just came to a point where I knew I had to get over there, that’s where all of the best fighters were, and more and more guys were coming to Alliance to train…It was just what I needed,” Stephens recently told BJPenn.com radio. “Coach Eric Del Fiero gave me a call after the Anthony Pettis fight…and by the end of the month I actually found a house over by [Alliance MMA] that I moved my family into.”

His move to Alliance didn’t come without an adjustment period, and Stephen’s first two fights with the gym were losses.  However, a  drop to featherweight has produced remarkable results for Stephens, who is undefeated in the division, with three straight victories over Estevan Payan, Rony Jason, and Darren Elkins. Stephens never gave up hope in the camp, and it’s paid off big for him.

“It didn’t pay off for me at first, I took three losses in a row, I had a lot of things going on, but I never gave up on those guys,” Stephens said. “I could have easily gone back home to Iowa, settled down, possibly started up a gym, and made money that way, but I decided to dig a little bit deeper, stick to it, I knew there was progress in the gym, and the progress that I was making wasn’t showing up in my fights. I just dug deeper…and I just became a better man, a better person, a better father, a better fighter, because of it, and here I am today, fighting for a number one contender’s spot.”

His bout with Cub Swanson is certainly an important one, with a title shot most likely on the line. Stephens excited to fight Swanson, who has also experienced a career resurgence, winning 5 straight. The fight certainly has the potential for fireworks, since both men are well-rounded strikers who tend to deliver brutal knockouts, and Stephens relishes the style matchup.

“Our styles are really just going to make for good chemistry inside that Octagon come June 28. It’s just going to be fun, I’m excited, I’m motivated every day, and I’m pumped up, I’m happy, and I’m ready,” he said. “I have nothing but respect for the guy, and this is why I’m training my ass off for him. He’s a great opponent, an exciting opponent, and he brings it just like me. We’re two of the same type of people, and we’re going to collide, and I think we’re going to give one of the best shows of the year.”

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