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Exclusive Interview: Jeremy Stephens

(Stephens works for a guillotine against Spencer Fisher at the TUF 7 Finale.)

On Saturday night, Des Moines, Iowa’s Jeremy Stephens will step in to the Octagon to take the place of his friend and training partner, Hermes Franca, in a main event bout against Joe Lauzon.  Things got personal between Franca and Lauzon in an internet forum feud, so it seems only fitting that a friend of Franca be the one to replace him in an attempt to win bragging rights for his side.

In our exclusive interview Stephens talks about what this fight means, how it will be won, and what’s next for the “Lil’ Heathen” in the UFC. You’re stepping in for Hermes Franca on somewhat short notice, but you were training with him to help him prepare for Lauzon, right?

Yeah.  I was down in South Beach training with him, and in Ft. Lauderdale, as well.  I travel a lot to train.

How did you guys get hooked up?  And is that why the UFC asked you to step in for him, because you guys were training partners?

No, we have the same manager.  My manager, when he mentioned that he had Hermes, I said, ‘He’s a great fighter.  I’d love to train with him.’  And when he told Hermes that he had signed me, Hermes said he had a fight coming up and he was going out to San Diego to train and since I had a fight coming up too we connected out there and started training together.  

But when he got hurt I actually called up my manager, Reed Wallace, and requested the fight with Joe Lauzon.

Did it have anything to do with the little feud that erupted between Joe and Hermes on the UG?

Yeah, Hermes is like a brother to me now and Joe Lauzon was talking a bunch of crap about him.  I know Hermes was training really hard for that fight and he was ready to kick his ass.  Hermes doesn’t talk a lot of smack, man.  He just does his job.  I just felt like I wanted to be the one to step up there for him and take the opportunity.

So then the bad blood between them on the UG, that was real?

Yeah, he was talking trash on Hermes.  You know, Hermes is not the kind of guy to talk bad about anybody.  He’s a respectful dude.  He gives everybody credit and he just fights.  So I didn’t like to see that.

How do you think you match up against Lauzon?

Joe Lauzon’s just another fight for me.  A lot of guys want to try and take me down and work their jiu-jitsu, and then once they find out that they can’t submit me they fold.  I bring a lot of pressure.  So I think it’s a good match-up for me and it’s a good opportunity.  I’m just ready to get in there and shock the world, brother.

I saw your fight with Rafael Dos Anjos and it looked like he was using jiu-jitsu pretty effectively and might be on his way to a decision until you knocked him out in the third.  Did you feel like you had to knock him out to keep it from going to the judges?

No, the turning point was when he tried to armbar me and he couldn’t and then I landed those elbows on him.  I think I broke his will.  I think that’s when he realized he couldn’t submit me and he got blasted with a bunch of elbows and in the third round, even without the knockout, I feel like I would have taken control.  But I’m always looking for the knockout, always looking to throw the lead that I have in my hands.

Do you think you’ll be able to break Joe Lauzon’s will?

I think so.  He’s been TKO’d three times.  I think that shows a weakness.  I’m not trying to talk trash on him, but to me if you’ve been TKO’d three times it means you fold when the pressure’s brought on you.  And he’s going to feel my pressure.  He’s going to feel how hard I hit.

After this fight, if you’re not hurt, I hear the UFC will let you still fight Efrain Escudero in April, like you were originally scheduled to.

Yeah, I asked my manager to make sure I’m still good to fight Efrain as well.  You know, I’d like to fight every three months, if I could.  It keeps me going, keeps me in shape, and keeps me on top of my game.  I want to get better every time I step in the Octagon.  Every time I fight I want to make sure people see my improvements and see that I’m working my ass off to get closer to the top.  

Are you not at all worried that you’ll be too banged up after this fight to get back in the gym and prepare properly?

No, I’ve fought banged up before.  I’ll take a week or two off if I need to, and then I’ll get right back in there and train hard again.  I’m young.  I heal very quickly.  I’m not one of those guys who takes a lot of time off.  I take a week off, then that’s it.  I’m right back in the gym and getting in shape.

How did you get started in MMA?

My grandfather was always watching these videos of ultimate fighting type stuff, real old school stuff.  I was always drawn to it.  I think I was a born fighter.  When I was sixteen, there’s a place out [in Iowa] that was like an amateur, underground fight thing.  Josh Neer was just destroying everybody and I heard about him and he told me to come out and watch.  I did and I thought, ‘Man, I’m a better fighter than that.’  

I came back the next week and I fought and I won.  Ever since then it’s like I’m hooked.  My grandfather has passed away now, but he was a big inspiration to me.  I think he’s why I got involved.

Did you wrestle growing up in Iowa?

I wrestled as a little kid.  Then I moved out to Norwalk when my dad got custody of me and I kind of steered away from it because my mind wasn’t right.  I was going through a lot of stuff.  But then I wrestled again my senior year of high school.  I was never the best wrestler or best athlete or anything like that, but I worked hard and didn’t quit.

Okay, one last thing I have to ask you.  The nickname “Lil’ Heathen” is pretty sweet.  Where did that come from?  And please don’t tell me it’s just because it rhymes with your last name.

That was something that I got when I was a little kid.  My mom gave it to me, actually.  I was just really wild, so my mom called me a little heathen because I was always crazy and getting into trouble, doing things other kids didn’t do, just really rambunctious and troublesome.  So that’s what I was.  The little heathen.


Cagepotato Comments

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Anonymous- February 6, 2009 at 6:11 am
You're all idiots. The old timers who think they have a claim to the site (you know who you are), the FIRST BIOTCHES!!!! crowd (seriously guys, you WILL remain single for the rest of your life) and the smack talking morons who insist on punctuating every sentence with as many expletives as possible. whilst demonstrating how little knowledge they truly have.

You all stopped being funny years ago, and we all know that arguing on the internet is like the special olympics. Even if you win, you're still a retard.
SiDeBuRnZ- February 5, 2009 at 7:28 pm
TUF guy has awesome facial hair?
LukeTheDuke- February 5, 2009 at 7:08 pm
damn your all shrouded in anonymity your so awesome...
Anonymous- February 5, 2009 at 3:11 pm
TUF and Luke the duke should and get a room, homos
LukeTheDuke- February 5, 2009 at 1:32 pm
(oh my bad i mean HIIT) yea i look like a douche for that one
LukeTheDuke- February 5, 2009 at 1:30 pm
@Clozer haha no im about to finish my 6 month course at NPTI. its good program with alot of good information with campuses all over the country. you should check it out.
Derekrva- February 5, 2009 at 12:22 pm
I wasn't implying earlier that Stephens always telegraphs his punches, but he likes to go big a lot, leading to slower power punches. I like Stephens, but I always like to see people get tapped and I think Lauzon might do just that Saturday night.
Clozer- February 5, 2009 at 12:09 pm
How does H.I.T.T. stand for high intensity interval training? Duke, did you just get done with your 24 hour fitness classes at the 24 hour University?
LukeTheDuke- February 5, 2009 at 11:53 am
ask me something good: like how much protein does a normal person need (.8grams per kilogram body weight) or the ammount of reps/sets in a hypertrophy workout (8-12/3-4), or what does H.I.T.T. stand for? (high intensity interval training)
Young, Hairy and Mexican- February 5, 2009 at 11:45 am
***Attn both Bens***

Please ban this TUF Guy

He is ruining your site. Kthxbai!
MMANewbExpert- February 5, 2009 at 11:41 am
This "shock the world" crap is getting annoying. It's one thing when the Arizona Cardinals say it. It's a totally different thing when Jeremy Stephens says it about fighting Joe Lauzon. You can't shock the world if nobody is paying attention to what you're doing...

My post is going to SHOCK THE WORLD!
LukeTheDuke- February 5, 2009 at 11:40 am
national association/academy of sports medicine
Clozer- February 5, 2009 at 11:31 am
That didn't work out to well. I googled it right after myself and it pulled it up. LOL PISS!!!
Clozer- February 5, 2009 at 11:28 am
Luke, what is n a s m?
LukeTheDuke- February 5, 2009 at 11:28 am
Its a nickname...Tuf Guy(?) ask me anything about fitness go ahead
Kadumel- February 5, 2009 at 11:28 am
Rofl TUF Guy can't even begin to keep up with all the smack being talked about him.
Clozer- February 5, 2009 at 11:25 am
Wow, an ongoing brow beating in every forum.
TUF Guy- February 5, 2009 at 11:20 am
Luke who could take you serriously with a name like that?
TUF Guy likes fat chicks- February 5, 2009 at 11:13 am
I do love fat chicks, and as you can tell they are the only friends I have. They are fag hags, cause, well, yes, I am a fag. Can't you tell by my super cool Honda Davidson Shadow? Vrrrrrooooom vrrrrooooom. Come on big boy let's take a ride.
LukeTheDuke- February 5, 2009 at 11:06 am
I'm a certified personal trainer, I can help you. Believe me I need clients with the economy the way it is.
(please don't take the "cagepotatowned" comment seriously)
TUF Guy- February 5, 2009 at 10:59 am
Myspace is for FAGS. But thanks for wasting your time in my honor oh five footed one.
TUF Guy- February 5, 2009 at 10:49 am
Why are you guys so angry? Just let it go. All you idiots are delusional FOR REAL FOR REAL. You guys make up stuff you wish was true, then you play it in your head, for some reason you type it up and post it on here. Then some of you idiots actually come back and congratulate YOURSELF on the comment you made. Now that has "PATHETIC" written all over it.

"your body will hit back hard when you're 50" SO what? That's why I'm hitting hard till I am 50 you loser. 50 is 25 years away, serriously who cares?

When I am 50 and I am living in the Bahamas, I won't have to worry about kicking ass anymore, I am sure I'll be tired of it by then, I'll have new hobbies like Shark Fishing and moutain climbing.
LukeTheDuke- February 5, 2009 at 10:44 am
Let me guess, your a short little guy who has a small person complex so he started taking steroids (proudly, "cos look what they've done for me, Now I prove that I'm big and 'TUF' by posting my sweaty shirtless picture on the forums at Cagepotato") to bulk up. Now your heart rate and blood pressure skyrocket in situations like these because truthfully they're the closest thing to a fight you've ever come to! (And from the roids) You probably do gas out when you try to fight people from wildly swinging your short little 46 pound arms around in circles.
My advice to you: get some outside time (after your boner goes away) and do some running, get off the roids because your body is gonna hit back HARD when your 50. Don't take shortcuts at the gym it will only take longer to actually get in shape.

No offense to CP but these comments are a breeding ground for idiocy.

LtD says, "Fuck Y'all"
rokabee- February 5, 2009 at 10:40 am
Okay, if you wanna see who TUF Guy really is.

Go to myspace, in search type in TUF Guy.

His is the first one that comes up.

myspace dot com / itralian

Got it!
LukeTheDuke- February 5, 2009 at 10:34 am
I think you got cagepotatowned.