If fans thought the Fight of the Year conversation came to a close at UFC 273 earlier this month, they were sorely mistaken. At the opening event of this year’s Professional Fighters League season, former UFC mainstay Stephens reminded fans why he’s been an ever-present in the cage since 2005.
In his promotional debut, “Lil Heathen” opened his 2022 campaign against 2021 semifinalist Collard. Despite falling short on the scorecards, Stephens certainly played his part in an entertaining and memorable brawl.
Following the contest, Stephens credited the work of two UFC welterweight stars for firing him up ahead of PFL 1 on Wednesday.
Stephens Credits Chimaev & Burns For ‘Pumping’ Him Up
During his post-fight interaction with the media, Stephens pointed to the April 9 welterweight clash between elite UFC contenders Khamzat Chimaev and Gilbert Burns. The pair threw down for three rounds inside the Octagon at the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville.
Having seen that FOTY-worthy bout, “Lil Heathen” said he was fired up to debut in the PFL with a similarly “insane” matchup. To say he did just that would certainly be an understatement.
“He was getting tired, we were banging, who wouldn’t want to see another two rounds of that, right? … That was a sick-ass fight dude,” said Stephens. “You know, I watched that Chimaev and Burns fight, and that fight really pumped me up. I was like, ‘Dude, I wanna get into a f*ckin’ fight like that.’ And coming here tonight, you know, I’ve been watching Formula One, I was ready to die tonight.
“It’s been a long f*ckin’ layoff, so it was good to come in here and have that type of scrap, have a guy with a set of balls on him to fight me like that,” added Stephens. “I think I clipped him like seven, eight times dude. That was an insane fight.”
Taking the similarities beyond just the action, Stephens followed in the footsteps of Burns, who fell short at UFC 273, by admitting his frustration at not having another two rounds inside the cage with Collard. Like “Durinho,” Stephens is targeting a five-round rematch down the line.
The PFL environment makes that a big possibility. If both Stephens and Collard qualify for the lightweight playoffs at the end of the year, they could well get some more time to exchange leather.
What did you make of Jeremy Stephens’ PFL debut?