by Jeff Cain
There’s this misconception out there that ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ (TUF) fighters are inexperienced newcomers to Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) who haven’t paid their dues. That may be an accurate statement when describing most of the contestants, but it couldn’t be further from the truth about season two finalist Joe Stevenson.

UFC President Dana White came on MMAWeekly Radio a few months ago with hosts Ryan Bennett and Frank Trigg and said “I believe we have one fighter that has the potential to be a UFC Champion…” He most likely was talking about Joe Stevenson.

Stevenson is a seven year veteran success story who began his professional MMA career when he was only sixteen years old. The now 23 year old has a professional record of 23-5-0, and entered ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ house on an eight fight win streak.

“I have put a lot of roadwork in. Anyone that knows who I’ve fought and how many fights I’ve had; I’ve been fighting since I was sixteen, I appreciate that very much.” Joe told MMAWeekly. Tomorrow night Stevenson takes on the Matt Serra trained Luke Cummo in the season finale and the chance to be ‘The Ultimate Fighter.’

Discussing his opponent, Luke Cummo, Stevenson commented, “In the beginning of the show he was on my team, and I figured I matched up best against Luke in the whole cast, style wise, because on the ground he really didn’t have anything for me. I’m excited. You know? I’m going to be able to showcase my skills live on TV, and against an opponent in the very beginning that I thought I wanted, and I still do want. He’s tough. He’s going to take a beating.”

Since appearing on the reality show Joe Stevenson’s life has changed. He’s now a recognizable public figure, but that means endorsements. Discussing the impact the reality show has had on his career, Joe said, “I sign more autographs. That’s always cool. You don’t know how to deal with that at first. When you have a girl walk up to you and be like, I recognize you. Oh my God. Take a picture. I just turn red, and I’m sitting there like alright. I’m going to have to learn to deal with that. Other than that, I guess, the only other way is financially. You start to get better endorsements and stuff; help take care of my kids.”

If Stevenson defeats Luke Cummo the requests for autographs and photos will escalate and the endorsement deals will come rolling in, but what Joe really wants is redemption. He’d like to avenge a few of those five losses on his record. He stated, “Whatever they throw at me I’ll do. I want some redemption. I’d like to fight Chris Brennan again or Jens [Pulver] or even like Ron Jhun or Romie Aram. I’d like those four…I have no problem fighting.”

Tomorrow night the only obstacle in the way of Joe Stevenson’s path to a six figure UFC contract is the Matt Serra Jiu-Jitsu trained Luke Cummo. Stevenson has the experience factor in his favor with 23 more professional fights than Cummo’s 3-2-0 MMA resume, but not many gave the Matt Serra trained Pete Sell much of a chance to defeat the hard punching Phil Baroni at UFC 51, and he choked Phil out. It all plays out Saturday night live on Spike TV.