How Jeremy Stephens saved his career thanks to Conor McGregor’s mother after ‘who the f*** is that guy’ insult at UFC 205 press conference
It was an insult heard around the world, replayed millions of times on social media and even incorporated into songs played on YouTube.
Yet for Jeremy Stephens, when Conor McGregor roasted him at the UFC 205 press conference in New York, it almost catapulted him to superstardom.
Cast your minds back to 2016, when the UFC rolled into Madison Square Garden for the first time after the MMA ban was revoked in the state at the start of the year.
The company worked tirelessly to overturn the ban of professional mixed martial arts in the state of New York, culminating in what Dana White called the ‘biggest fight card’ in their history.
Headlined by McGregor himself, the Irishman famously became a two-weight world champion (the first fighter to ever hold two belts simultaneously) and produced several iconic moments before, during and after the fight.
One of which occurred when he simply asked, ‘Who the f*** is that guy?’ after being called out by Stephens at the pre-fight press conference.
It not only turned out to be one of McGregor’s most iconic catchphrases from his illustrious book of witty quotations, it threatened to derail Stephens’ career.
He would go on to lose against home town favourite Frankie Edgar on the night, leaving his featherweight world title dreams in tatters.
Not only could he not find an answer to Edgar on the night, his attempted comeback to ‘The Notorious’ was snuffed out and he found himself in MMA purgatory.
Defeat to Renato Moicano in April of 2017 appeared to be the end of the road for ‘Lil Heathen’, but he bounced back in spectacular style.
“It’s all a learning lesson,” he told MMA NYTT before his next fight with Gilbert Melendez. “It’s came and gone and I learned, especially in the fight with Frankie.
“I feel like I was just chasing too much. It’s a blessing and a curse.
“I love being in a fight so much that sometimes I go outside my limits just to engage in a fight. Some guys are just p*****.”
Acknowledging fighters did not want to stand and trade due to his power, Stephens instead brutalised the legs of Melendez and cruised to a unanimous decision for a confidence-boosting win.
Stephens then finally responded to McGregor’s call out after a year of almost complete silence by getting a picture with the former two-weight world champion’s mother, Margaret.
He captioned the post on Twitter, ‘#YourMomKnowsWhoDaFook’ and it seemed to kickstart something of a career revival for the featherweight contender, as if firing back at the Irishman had allowed him to regain his confidence.
Knocking out Dooho Choi and Josh Emmett back-to-back earned him a shot against former 145lbs king Jose Aldo in Canada and it seemed as though his title dreams were finally becoming a reality.
Yet the Brazilian found a crippling body shot to once again derail Stephens and his lofty ambitions but, as he now prepares to step in and face the dangerous Drakkar Klose on Saturday night, it is important to celebrate the resilience of the man.
The 34-year-old has fought 33 times in the UFC since his debut in 2007 and faced the likes of Rafael dos Anjos, Joe Lauzon, Anthony Pettis, Donald Cerrone, Yves Edwards, Cub Swanson, Charles Oliveira, Max Holloway and Renan Barao.
This means he has faced six former or current champions in the organisation and also is joint second with the legendary Anderson Silva for most knockdowns in the UFC (18).
If it is to be a fifth straight defeat in Las Vegas, it could well be the end of a glorious career in the UFC for a fighter who deserves to be celebrated for more than just a one-liner from Conor McGregor.