One day after their headlining bout at UFC Fight Night 159 in Mexico City ended in a disappointing no contest, Jeremy Stephens and Yair Rodriguez were involved in a minor altercation at the fighter hotel.
Stephens described the incident during an appearance on Ariel Helwani’s MMA Show on Monday. He claims Rodriguez approached him as Stephens’ group was leaving the JW Marriott hotel on Sunday.
“We were taking off, and he comes up all cordial giving like a thumbs up like, ‘Hey is everything OK?’ He comes up and shakes my hand. I thought he was trying to be a gentleman,” Stephens said. “He starts talking s—t to me. I’m like, ‘Bro I’m not from karate school. I’m from the street. I’m here to compete. I’m here to fight. I’m here to kill you.’ So right away my mentality was ‘back the f—k up,’ so I shoved him.
“And his coaches, his dad, his parents and everybody are like, ‘Whoa, whoa, whoa.’ I know his sister has footage. I was waiting for them to release that footage, but I guarantee they’re not gonna release it because he looked like a coward there. I thought he was trying to be a gentleman, but unfortunately that wasn’t it. He wants to talk…I don’t know Yair. He doesn’t know me. But I’m not like that. I’m not gonna [let] you talk s—t to me, especially after you eye poked me.”
Rodriguez presented a different version of the encounter in a separate interview with ESPN.com.
"He pushed me like a little b----," Rodriguez said. "And I just told him, you will live the rest of your life with that in your head ... if you could continue and didn't. Shame on you."
The bad blood stems from Saturday’s featherweight clash at Mexico City Arena, which ended in a no contest after 15 seconds when an accidental eye poke from Rodriguez left Stephens unable to continue. The pro-Rodriguez crowd littered the Octagon with debris and continued to throw various items at Stephens as he was escorted from the arena.
"I felt a couple of pesos and definitely had some drinks [hit me] before I ended up in the back," Stephens said. "I expected that from the fans. I've been in hostile territory before in Brazil. Whether I knocked him out, it might have been worse. I get it. People pay their hard-earned money to watch a fight. I knew they were gonna be rowdy, I knew they were gonna be on his side."
Rodriguez seemed to question the validity of Stephen’s injury during an interview on ESPN+ following their bout. On Monday, Stephens revealed that he went to the emergency room and had scratches and bruises on both of his eyes. The left eye was the one that wouldn’t open, but fortunately for Stephens, he suffered no serious damage from the foul.
“Lil Heathen” would like to book a rematch with Rodriguez before year’s end, and he has targeted UFC on ESPN 6 on Oct. 18, UFC 244 on Nov. 2 or UFC on ESPN 7 on Dec. 7 as potential options.
"I can get cleared," Stephens said. "My eye is fine. It's one of them freak things. It happens. I didn't know if it was gonna be worse or not. Fortunately, I came out on a good end. Thank God, because eyes are nothing to play with."
Rodriguez, however, remains skeptical and isn’t necessarily interested in a rematch. “El Pantera” has requested to see the results of Stephens’ medical exams before making any kind of decision.
"I'm ready for the tests and the proof," Rodriguez said. "If I'm wrong, I'll apologize in public, no problem."