He may never have fought for a UFC title, or ever been hailed as one of the top contenders in his division, but over the last fifteen years, Jeremy Stephens has been one of the most dependable talents to step inside the Octagon.
The ‘Lil’ Heathen’ headlined his first UFC card all the way back in 2009, and his last in 2019. Over his 34-fights inside the world’s largest MMA promotion he faced off against ten former UFC title contenders and champions. But, as MMA Fighting reports, it appears Stephens’ time with the UFC has come to an end.
The 35-year-old hit a sizeable rough patch recently, going winless over three years and six fights. Following just the third TKO/KO loss of his career – at the hands of Calvin Kattar – the longtime Alliance MMA talent tried making a return to the lightweight division, where he first got his start. The result? A quick submission defeat via Kimura against former KSW champ Mateusz Gamrot, and the completion of the last fight on his contract with the UFC.
Fighting has confirmed that Stephens and the UFC did not come to terms on a new deal following that last fight, which should make Stephens an unrestricted free agent from the promotion (provided the UFC doesn’t pursue any matching rights).
No word yet on just where Stephens might land. It doesn’t seem like retirement has been on his mind, even given recent struggles. And between Bellator, PFL, Eagle FC, and BKFC the free agent market for exciting, action-forward fighters is a decently hot one. Stephens will leave the UFC with a 28-19 (1 NC) record, a collection of 10 ‘of the night’ bonuses, and the somewhat inglorious title for ‘most losses’ in UFC history.
Win or lose, however, Stephens always put on a show. Wherever he lands next will almost certainly get a quality addition to their highlight reel in return for their money.