UFC's Jeremy Stephens on 15 days in jail: 'I'm kind of thankful for it'
JUN 23, 2014 9:38p ET
Jeremy Stephens could really only do two things when he was stuck in jail: eat ramen noodles and think.
He got sick of the former pretty quickly. The latter is what continues to stick with him now, almost two years later.
"When you're in jail and you're just sitting there," Stephens told FOX Sports, "you find out who was really there for you and who wasn't."
The UFC featherweight was stuck in an Iowa jail for 15 days on assault charges in October 2012 after being arrested the day he was supposed to fight Yves Edwards at UFC on FX. Last summer, most of the charges were dropped and Stephens pleaded guilty to one count of misdemeanor disorderly conduct. The entire messy situation is over, but Stephens still lives the effects.
As soon as he returned to his home in San Diego, the changes began. Stephens cut some friends out of his life. The only ones that remained were the guys at his Alliance MMA gym. Stephens stopped going out and focused on being a family man to his wife and two daughters.
At Alliance, Stephens fell in love with training again and committed himself to a diet that would allow him to drop down to 145 pounds. It's at that weight where he is now a title contender. Stephens meets Cub Swanson at UFC Fight Night on June 28 in San Antonio (FOX Sports 1, 10 p.m.) and a victory could earn him a shot against champion Jose Aldo.
“At the time, I thought, 'Why is this happening to me?' It really ended up being a good thing.”
"I have dreams, man," Stephens said. "I'm never going to give up them. That made me dig deeper. I went back to the start. It was really a good thing. At the time, I thought, 'Why is this happening to me?' It really ended up being a good thing."
Of course, it was also the low point of his life. Stephens, 28, was picked up on felony assault charges by Minnesota police the morning of Oct. 5, 2012, the day he was supposed to fight Edwards. There was a warrant for his arrest in Iowa for an incident in 2011, which reportedly could only be issued in a surrounding state.
Stephens and UFC president Dana White thought Iowa officials waited until the 11th hour to arrest Stephens so he wouldn’t be able to fight. White tried desperately to bail him out (it was set at $100,000) before the event began, but said Iowa cops reneged on three separate deals.
"They weren’t men of their word," Stephens said.
Stephens ended up being extradited to Iowa and spent a total of 15 days in jail. Details emerged later from the police report, alleging that Stephens and another man, David James Bachman, beat a man into critical condition outside a Des Moines bar.
Stephens maintained his innocence throughout. His manager, Ryan Hass, told MMA Fighting that prosecutors offered him a number of plea deals that would include no jail time, but Stephens refused, because he wanted to have the matter settled in court.
It never got that far. The felony charges were dropped and then Stephens did settle, pleading guilty to disorderly conduct in July 2013. The sentence called for time served and a fine.
“I'm just now starting to tap into my potential. The best is still yet to come for me.”
Stephens did end up fighting Edwards in December 2012 and ended up getting knocked out. That cemented his decision to move down to featherweight, where he has won three in a row, including a brutal head kick knockout of Rony Jason last November. Stephens is coming off a unanimous decision win over Darren Elkins in January at FOX UFC Saturday.
"I'm just now starting to tap into my potential," Stephens said. "The best is still yet to come for me."
Stephens (23-9) always knew he would get off on the allegations, but he was hurt by the things fans said about him. And the lawyer and court fees also took a toll on his family monetarily.
"It took my life by surprise and hurt me financially," Stephens said. "It crushed me, broke me down."
The knockout artist is now focused on crushing his opponents. The ordeal is over and the only thing he has to worry about is Swanson, the fourth-ranked featherweight contender in the UFC. Stephens is No. 11.
"This is when I'm most dangerous," Stephens said. "I'm back to falling in love with the training. I'm a better person and a better father."
Stephens may never enjoy ramen again. But he believes he did get some positive out of those two weeks in lock up.
"It was a good and bad thing altogether," he said. "It was a good learning experience. I'm kind of thankful for it."