The step down isn’t this weekend’s competition in Javier Vazquez. To call Vazquez a step down is a sure way of getting put to sleep quicker than someone with a sleep-aid addiction. The step down is more so about the drop in weight from the UFC’s 155-pound division to the realm of 145-pound fighters like Aldo and Mendes at featherweight.
Stevenson’s move to featherweight comes off the heels of a three-fight losing-streak and, at first glimpse, looks as though he’s dropping to get away from the competition he can’t seem to get past. On the contrary, he may look at the lightweights as a tough crowd, but the purpose of the drop in weight class is stems from Stevenson seeing himself closer to a title shot at 145-pounds than at 155-pounds, according to him.
The newly trimmed featherweight explains.
“I want a belt in the UFC and now that the UFC has got that 145 (pound) weight class, I’m, kind of, just zoned about getting a belt there,” Stevenson told MMAWeekly Radio. “(Lightweight) is going to take a lot of time and hard work. It’s not a weight class that I’m scared of. It’s a weight class that’s very deep and very tough. And I just see it happening and (realizing my dream) a little bit faster at 145.
“Logically, yeah, I lost three in a row and if I look at trying to get a title shot, I’m going to have to win, at that division, nine in a row against stellar guys, whereas at this weight, with my record and the things that I’ve done in the past, (if) I beat three or four of the top guys, I’m going to have a title shot. And that’s what excites me.”
And the fact that he’s dropped three fights in a row wasn’t the catalyst for making the move to featherweight either. Actually, the thought of shedding the 10 extra pounds came a while ago. The drop would have come earlier, but the motivation wasn’t there like it is now, and making weight at lightweight had become all too easy. Now, with the way the featherweight division has opened up, Stevenson sees his opportunity and is jumping at the chance to make waves at 145 pounds in hopes of getting a shot of putting the gold belt around his waist.
Not only is he taking on new challenges, but the diet required to cut to 145 pounds has him rocking a washboard stomach – an added perk for the summer season.
“About two years ago, I was thinking I can make featherweight,” Stevenson said. “(I just) didn’t really have a cause, a want to. I mean, it just got really easy to make the weight at 155. I weighed, this morning, 155. And Melvin (Guillard) got here and he was, like, ‘my gosh, I can’t believe this.’ You know, it just takes a very strict diet and, I guess, I have a six-pack for the summer, now.”
For Stevenson, cutting weight to featherweight is a piece of cake. Or more appropriately, no pieces of cake at all.
The diet was key in his reduction of pounds to compete in the smaller and quicker weight class. The winner of The Ultimate Fighter’s second season enlisted the help from known MMA nutritionist George Lockhart in order to stay on top of eating the right foods and intaking the appropriate calories.
No longer was he allowed to take random trips to his favorite fast food restaurant. No, Stevenson stuck to his game plan of eating in-home meals and making sure what he was consuming would benefit him towards his goal of making weight.
“I really just had to diet for a couple weeks strict,” he said. “I would just stop eating out and I would just eat healthy at the house, large portions. I was probably eating six to seven meals and, I mean, big meals and maintaining my weight at 55. So, 45 (was) just a rock’s throw away. I’m down to six good sized meals, eating every three hours. (I) worked with a guy named George Lockhart… great guy, increased my fat intake. Some calories are a little more important than other calories and I feel great.”
Perhaps it was the talks with UFC brass that confirmed a move to featherweight was the best thing for Stevenson to do for his career. After talking with Sean Shelby and Joe Silva, Stevenson realized that gaining weight wasn’t the best thing to do. Fighting at heavier weight classes proved to be the wrong direction to go and fattening up to fight bigger guys wouldn’t have done him as well as dropping to featherweight.
“I was walking around about a buck seventy-five when I had talked to Sean (Shelby) and Joe (Silva) about taking a fight at 45,” he said. “And now, I think that was a great idea (to) not let myself balloon up.”
Trimmed down and ready to get back on the winning track, Joe Stevenson is prepared to step in the Octagon at UFC on Versus 4 this Sunday. No day of rest for him. It’s time take on some stiff competition at featherweight and that begins with Javier Vasquez on June 26.
“These guys are quick, dangerous and everyone is a threat at this weight.”
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