Not every fighter can ascend the ranks to UFC titles or be a top contender, but there is something to be said for players who are dependable and reliable. The ability to put on consistently good performances over long periods of time is impressive, and the athletes who are noted for this type of talent do not always last many years in the fray. Jeremy Stephens, however, has managed to keep the momentum going for 15 years. It is difficult to find a more dependable fighter than Stephens, in fact, and his time in the Octagon has always been impressive to see.
Unfortunately, that time might be coming to end sooner rather than later.
An end to a 15-year career
On January 27th, 2022, Stephens announced an end to his incredible career with the UFC. This marks well over a decade of UFC headlines and 34 total fights, including 10 UFC title champions and contenders. It also comes in the midst of a three-year “dry patch” of winless fights. This includes three TKO/KO losses, the most recent against Calvin Kattar, and a disappointing return to the lightweight division.
The UFC and Stephens were reportedly unable to come to an agreement on a new contract. This likely makes the fighter an unrestricted free agent. In other words, leaving the UFC does not necessarily mean the end of Stephens’ career, but rather the beginning of something new. There is no shortage of options in the free agent market, including names such as Bellator, Eagle FC, PFL and BKFC, meaning that Stephens is more than likely to find continued fights if that is the path he wants to walk.
An amicable split?
While failing to come to a contract agreement might not be indicative of deeper turmoil, it appears that Stephens experienced exactly that throughout negotiations. The fighter said that he felt “iced out” by the UFC’s refusal to secure him a reasonable matchup rather than facing only “beasts” all of the time. He especially wanted this for his last match, hoping that he could end his UFC career on a high note. Unfortunately, that is not how events played out.
In addition to disagreements over his opponents, Stephens pointed out how difficult it can be to fight on a single paycheck a year. The fighter has been running on a single fight a year for the past two years. This is particularly unappealing given that Stephens is supporting a family and also feels as though his loyalty to the UFC should have earned him consideration in return.
With all of that said, the fighter does not harbor hard feelings towards the UFC nor its president Dana White. He is satisfied with his career to date and is proud of what he has accomplished, even if things did not end the way he had hoped.
Stephens is hoping to follow Anthony Johnson’s lead with a career turnaround now that he has signed with the PFL.