Last Saturday’s UFC card in Mexico City ended with a wet fart of a main event. Yair Rodriguez got the walkout of a lifetime in front of thousands of hometown fans, only for his bout against Jeremy Stephens to end as a no contest in 15 seconds when Rodriguez swiped across Stephens’s face and gouged his eyes. The crowd was pissed, along with Rodriguez himself, who threw a tantrum in the ring and then confronted Stephens in a hotel lobby the next day to accuse him (once again) of exaggerating the eye injury to get out of the fight.
Stephens told his side of the story to Ariel Helwani on Monday, and today, video of the incident emerged. The video shows Rodriguez asking Stephens if his eye is okay before the two featherweights get chest-to-chest. There is no audio of their conversation beyond Rodriguez asking Stephens, “So what happened?” Stephens then shoves Rodriguez hard, and Rodriguez says, “You’re a fucking pussy, bro. You’re gonna have to live with that for the rest of your fucking life. It’s not me. I’m fine, motherfucker.”
“You poked me in the eye, faggot,” Stephens says; Rodriguez repeats the slur back at him. Stephens keeps asking his opponent to run it back. “Yeah, run it back. That was yesterday,” Rodriguez responds.
“I thought he was trying to be a gentleman,” Stephens told Helwani. “I get it. And he starts talking shit to me. I was like, ‘Bro, I’m not from a karate school, I’m from the street. I’m here to fight. I’m here to kill you.’ Right away, my mentality is back the fuck up. So, I shoved him.”
After Rodriguez initially took the blame for the fight-ending sequence in a post-match interview, he’s since started to question the severity of Stephens’s injury. In an ESPN interview on Monday, he confirmed that he confronted Stephens about the degree to which his eye was actually hurt. He also said he would only believe Stephens’s injuries were real if he could see medical evidence:
Rodriguez, 26, said he doesn’t know if Stephens deserves a rematch with him. He said he’ll pay to fly to wherever Stephens is, they can go to the doctor and he wants to personally see the results of Stephens’ eye exams. Rodriguez said he is not sure whether what Stephens is saying is true, considering that hours later, his eyes were OK.
“I’m ready for the tests and the proof,” Rodriguez said. “If I’m wrong, I’ll apologize in public, no problem.”
Despite his indignation, Rodriguez has only himself to blame for the fight getting stopped so early. There was no reason for him to paw across Stephens’s face in a neutral situation like that, and the octagon doctor couldn’t even pry his eye open to look at the damage. Stephens was briefly hospitalized, but he said that he avoided any permanent damage. Although an actual fight between the two would be worthwhile, Stephens doesn’t expect Rodriguez to accept a rematch:
“I guarantee you the kid doesn’t want it,” Stephens said about Rodriguez. “My bet money is that he doesn’t accept the fight, he bitches out and runs. That’s what he does. You saw how he acted after the win. He’s celebrating like he won over an eye poke. Who does that? The kid was nervous all week. I was up in his head, I’m still in his head, and he can either accept the fight or get the fuck out of my way.”