Jeremy Stephens didn’t get to celebrate his knockout win over Josh Emmett for long before hearing cries about some controversial strikes that were landed just before he earned the highlight reel finish.
It all unfolded in a matter of seconds after Stephens dropped Emmett to the floor with a blistering left hand before following up to finish the fight.
Stephens immediately began blasting away with elbows as Emmett attempted to get back up from the ground. Because Emmett was twisting and turning to avoid the damage, Stephens says he never intentionally hit him to the back of the head and referee Dan Miragliotta never warned him either.
“Guys look, I’m going for the finish here. I’m looking to elbow. If they turn their head, the ref will tell you it’s OK cause he’s turning his head so make the adjustment,” Stephens explained during the post fight show. “In that moment, I’m elbowing, elbowing, looking for it. He looked under and I nailed a couple. When I fought [Dooho] Choi, I elbowed the referee in the back of the head. He jumped in.
“Guys, I’m not a dirty fighter. I am a killer. I train to finish. I’m going for it, I’m landing big shots there. I don’t mean to hit people in the back of the head but if they turn that’s not my problem.”
The more controversial strike was the knee that Stephens threw when Emmett was still clearly a downed opponent. Emmett had both knees on the canvas, which makes it illegal for Stephens to then fire a knee strike of his own.
According to Stephens, he believed he was well within the rules according to the instructions given to him by the referee before the fight. While Florida has adapted the newest set of rules for mixed martial arts, there are numerous states and countries that still abide by the old rule set so the fighters are explained the differences ahead of the event.
In our full interview with @lilheathenmma, Michael @Bisping asks if it bothers him if people might think he's a dirty fighter…
"As of tomorrow the money will hit my bank account. I am not worried." https://t.co/CwQTJzFP2A
— FOX Sports: UFC (@UFCONFOX) February 25, 2018
By the sound of things, either Stephens was told the incorrect information or he misunderstood what was explained to him, which resulted in that knee strike being launched at Emmett’s head.
“The referee Dan Miragliotta came in the back, he said this is the new unified rules that if two hands are down, you can lift one hand up to knee, that’s OK. So if he’s on his knees and one hand is up, it’s OK to throw a knee. I’m not a dirty fighter, I never have been my whole life. I saw an opportunity, I was looking for it. I don’t even think I landed the knee. It was the left hook that dropped him,” Stephens explained.
“I saw exactly what he was going to do. I knew that he was rocked. He was two hands [down], he lifted his hand up and I saw the moment and that’s when I threw the knee. I don’t think the knee even landed. That’s not what hurt him. There’s a lot more damage followed up after that. He was even rocked before that. He did lift his hands and I waited for that hand to life and I tried to take advantage of that opportunity. It didn’t land. I missed but those are the rules in this specific state. I’m not a dirty fighter. I never have been.”
There have been reports that Emmett plans on filing an appeal but the state of Florida does not offer instant replay to change the result of a decision on fight night so it’s tough to imagine the commission would allow that in a hearing. Add to that, Miragliotta as the referee didn’t make the call about an illegal strike during the fight so it’s not likely that he’ll be admonished and the fight somehow overturned.
As for Stephens’ feelings on the matter, he’s not letting the talk about a potentially illegal knee or elbow take away from his third straight victory and second consecutive knockout in the UFC.
“As of tomorrow, the money will hit my bank account,” Stephens said. “The more people that are talking, the more you’re making my name hot so keep it up.”