Jeremy Stephens doesn’t run from challenges.
Instead the veteran featherweight contender charges like a bull towards them, which is why he didn’t blink for a second when the UFC asked him to face fast rising star Zabit Magomedsharipov at UFC 235.
Since arriving in the UFC, the Dagestani native has earned a lot of eyeballs thanks to his performances where he’s gone 4-0 inside the Octagon, earned three performance bonuses alongside a trio of submission victories.
Apparently the problem Magomedsharipov has faced is finding quality opponents willing to accept him as an opponent, which is exactly why Stephens was the the first to volunteer long before this matchup was made.
“What’s funny is you can ask Sean Shelby and Mark Dellagrotte, when I fought [Josh] Emmett they were talking about Zabit and they’re like ‘nobody wants to fight him’ and I said ‘I’ll go to Russia after this, I’ve never been, let’s go’,” Stephens revealed ahead of UFC 235.
“Everybody is talking about they’re afraid of this kid. I look at it as a great opportunity to go out there and shut people the f—k up and let people know who the f—k I am. It’s a great challenge and I’m looking forward to it.”
While some fighters take a look at the rankings and scoff at taking on an opponent behind them in the top 15, Stephens prefers to approach every fight with a more mercenary mindset.
“We’re in the fight business, why not fight? I like my money,” Stephens stated. “I like buying big houses on big hills. This is my chance to buy another big house on a big hill and a bigger pool.”
Stephens has been impressed what he’s seen out of Magomedsharipov so far but this is by far the biggest step up in competition he’s faced since arriving in the UFC in 2017.
He goes from facing four opponents with a combined UFC record of 5-11 to a legitimate threat in the featherweight top 10 with a history of rendering his opponents unconscious with one shot.
“I’m a bad guy versus anybody,” Stephens said about the matchup. “You’ve got to fist fight me. You’re going to try to game plan me and that’s cute but I’m a great game planner, too. It just takes one hit from me to put your ass to sleep. I know it, they know it and it’s only a matter of time before I connect.
“You can run around, you can dance, you can throw your spin s—t but you’re going to come crashing into something sooner or later and it’s going to change your whole f—king game plan. It’s going to put your head on the canvas and I’m going to hit you again and again until the referee pulls me off.”
Stephens gets excited for every opportunity to fight but he loves the challenge when he’s put inside the Octagon against somebody who is supposedly unbeatable.
That’s why he’s going to come after Magomedsharipove with everything in his arsenal to see if he’s really as good as advertised.
“I don’t want to run around this guy like everybody else. I want to run right f—king through him and just make a statement,” Stephens said. “I don’t have to talk s—t. I just like making statements and putting people clean the f—k out.
“I like to f—king hurt people. Let’s be honest. I like getting into a fist fight and I like challenges.”