Jeremy Stephens (born May 26, 1986) is an American professional mixed martial artist, competing in the UFC's featherweight division. As of May 19, 2020, he is #9 in the UFC featherweight rankings.
Stephens was born in Des Moines, Iowa, on May 26, 1986, and came from a broken home. When he was eight years old, Stephens parents divorced and he constantly switched between schools while also living in various apartments, shelters, and even in his mother's car before moving to Norwalk, Iowa with his father, who was granted custody of Stephens when he was in the fifth grade. Growing up, Stephens played baseball, basketball, and also competed in wrestling. Stephens attended Norwalk High School where he was a standout in baseball and wrestling, having returned to wrestling during his senior year. Stephens was introduced to mixed martial arts by his grandfather who had also originally persuaded Stephens to compete in wrestling. While beginning his career in mixed martial arts, Stephens looked up to and later became friends with fellow Des Moines native Josh Neer.
Stephens was defeated via second round armbar submission in his UFC debut against veteran Din Thomas at UFC 71 on May 26, 2007.
Stephens next stepped in as a late replacement for Hermes Franca against Joe Lauzon on February 7, 2009 at UFC Fight Night 17. Lauzon defeated Stephens with an armbar late in the second round.
Then on April 1, 2009 at UFC Fight Night: Condit vs Kampmann, Stephens was out-wrestled by Gleison Tibau and lost his second straight fight via unanimous decision.
Stephens was expected to return to the octagon on September 16, 2009, at UFC Fight Night: Diaz vs. Guillard against UFC newcomer Ronnys Torres. However, Torres sustained an injury during training and was replaced by Justin Buchholz. Stephens defeated Buchholz after landing several big strikes and opening up a deep gash on Buchholz's forehead, forcing the doctor to stop the fight midway through the first round. This win earned him the Knockout of the Night award.
Stephens was expected to face Nik Lentz on January 11, 2010, at UFC Fight Night 20. However, Stephens suffered a cut and was forced to pull out of the fight.
Stephens defeated Sam Stout via split decision on May 8, 2010, at UFC 113. He won the fight via split decision. This win earned him the Fight of the Night award.
Stephens lost to Melvin Guillard on September 25, 2010, at UFC 119 via split decision.
On October 5, 2012, the date Stephens was supposed to fight at UFC on FX: Browne vs. Bigfoot, Stephens was arrested in Minneapolis, Minnesota after Minneapolis PD served an arrest warrant. Stephens was charged with felony assault and burglary, stemming from an incident that took place in Des Moines, Iowa in 2011. Stephens was then extradited to the Des Moines County jail where he was incarcerated for 15 days before being released. Most of the charges, however, were eventually dropped, and Stephens pleaded guilty to one count of disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor.
Stephens faced Marcus Davis on January 1, 2011, at UFC 125. After likely losing the first two rounds, Stephens then came out more aggressive in the third round and caught Davis with a counter punch resulting in a KO win. This win earned him the Knockout of the Night award.
Stephens was expected to face Jonathan Brookins on June 4, 2011, at The Ultimate Fighter 13 Finale. However, Brookins was forced from the bout with an injury and replaced by Danny Downes. Stephens defeated Downes via unanimous decision after dominating all three rounds.
Stephens faced Anthony Pettis on October 8, 2011, at UFC 136. Pettis defeated Stephens via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28).
Stephens replaced an injured Yves Edwards against Donald Cerrone on May 15, 2012 at UFC on Fuel TV: Korean Zombie vs. Poirier He lost the fight via unanimous decision.
Stephens was expected to face Yves Edwards on October 5, 2012, at UFC on FX 5. However, the bout was cancelled due to Stephens being arrested on the day of the event for an assault charge that dates back to 2011. The fight eventually took place on December 8, 2012 at UFC on Fox 5. Edwards won by knockout in the first round, being the first fighter to ever stop Stephens via strikes.
Stephens made his Featherweight debut against promotional newcomer Estevan Payan on May 25, 2013 at UFC 160. He won the bloody fight via unanimous decision.
Stephens was expected to face Rony Jason on October 9, 2013, at UFC Fight Night 29. However, Jason pulled out of the bout citing an injury (lumbar hernia). The bout eventually took place on November 9, 2013, at UFC Fight Night 32. Stephens won via knockout early in the first round.
Stephens faced Darren Elkins on January 25, 2014, at UFC on Fox 10. He won the fight via unanimous decision.
Stephens faced Cub Swanson on June 28, 2014, at UFC Fight Night 44. He lost the fight via unanimous decision. This fight earned him the Fight of the Night award.
Stephens next faced Charles Oliveira on December 12, 2014, at The Ultimate Fighter 20 Finale. He lost the fight by unanimous decision.
Stephens faced Dennis Bermudez on July 11, 2015, at UFC 189. He won the fight by TKO due to a flying knee and punches after a close first two rounds.
Stephens faced Max Holloway on December 12, 2015, at UFC 194. He lost the fight via unanimous decision.
Stephens faced Renan Barão on May 29, 2016, at UFC Fight Night 88. He won the back and forth bout by unanimous decision. Both participants were awarded Fight of the Night honors for their performance.
Stephens next faced Frankie Edgar on November 12, 2016, at UFC 205. He lost the fight via unanimous decision.
Stephens faced Renato Moicano on April 15, 2017, at UFC on Fox 24. He lost the fight by split decision.
Stephens faced Gilbert Melendez on September 9, 2017, at UFC 215. He won the fight via unanimous decision. Both participants were awarded Fight of the Night honors for their performance.
Stephens faced Doo Ho Choi on January 14, 2018, at UFC Fight Night: Stephens vs. Choi. He won the fight via TKO in the second round. Both participants were awarded Fight of the Night.
Stephens faced Josh Emmett on February 24, 2018 at UFC on Fox 28. He won the fight via knockout in round two. This win earned him a Performance of the Night bonus.
Stephens next faced former 2 time UFC Featherweight Champion José Aldo, on July 28, 2018 at UFC on Fox: Alvarez vs. Poirier 2. He lost the fight via TKO in the first round.
Stephens faced Zabit Magomedsharipov on March 2, 2019 at UFC 235. He lost the fight via unanimous decision.
Stephens faced Yair Rodríguez on September 21, 2019 in the main event at UFC on ESPN+ 17. The bout ended in a "No Contest" just 15 seconds into the first round after Rodríguez accidentally swatted Stephens in the left eye, rendering Stephens unable to continue.
Stephens faced Yair Rodríguez in a rematch on October 18, 2019 at UFC on ESPN 6. He lost the fight via unanimous decision. This fight earned him the Fight of the Night award.
Stephens was scheduled to Calvin Kattar on April 18, 2020 at UFC 249. However, on April 9, Dana White, the president of UFC announced that this event was postponed and the bout eventually took place on May 9, 2020. At the weigh-ins on May 8, Stephens missed weight, weighing in at 150.5 pounds, 4.5 pounds over the non-title featherweight limit. As a result, the bout proceeded as a catchweight bout and Stephens was fined 20% of his purse. Stephens lost the fight via technical knockout in round two.