How Yves Edwards changed the course of Jeremy Stephens' career


LOS ANGELES – To this day, UFC featherweight Jeremy Stephens thanks retired fighter and current UFC commentator Yves Edwards for changing his life. It's a strange accolade, considering Edwards' most obvious contribution to Stephens' life was a right hook and an elbow that rendered him unconscious six years ago at UFC on FOX 5. But to Stephens (27-14 MMA, 14-13 UFC), it was the catalyst that turned his life around. “That was a pivotal point in my life, in all aspects of my life,” he told reporters today at a media event in support of his fight with Josh Emmett (13-1 MMA, 4-1 UFC) at UFC on FOX 28, which takes place Feb. 24 at Amway Center in Orlando, Fla. “That was a game-changer for me, and I'm blessed that it actually did happen.” Stephens, 31, is known today as one of the most iron-willed and iron-jawed competitors in the UFC. But at UFC on FOX 5, he walked into the octagon having never been separated from consciousness in a fight. He'd also never endured as tumultuous a buildup to one. Two months prior to the event on Dec. 8, 2012, Stephens wasn't in a gym training for 15 minutes in the cage. He was in jail. Then 26, Stephens was arrested in Minneapolis on Oct. 5, just hours before he was supposed to fight Edwards at UFC on FX 5. UFC officials worked frantically to bond him out of jail, but he wound up missing the event. An alleged bar brawl the year prior in Stephens' native Des Moines, Iowa, had come back to haunt him. It came in the form of an arrest warrant on a charge of assault. Stephens, according to local reports, allegedly had joined in when a friend attacked another male in the bar's parking lot. The male stopped breathing twice and was transported to the hospital in critical condition. Stephens' management claimed he had merely been present at a party in which an intoxicated person had gotten into an altercation with another person at the party. Stephens wasn't arrested after police initially investigated the incident and wasn't notified of a pending warrant, according to a statement. Still, police took him in. The charges were eventually dropped. It was a bizarre turn in Stephens' career, and yet the incident and its fallout wound up reshaping the way he thought about fighting. He initially brushed off a question about it from a reporter when asked how it affected him. Then, he changed his mind. “One thing I take away from that – I'll just go ahead and throw it out there – is I got knocked out by Yves Edwards,” Stephens said. “I had a situation pop up. I took a fight on short notice, and it was the most chaotic time in my life. It was the first time I really had to fight for money. I wasn't in shape, and I got knocked out. Yves Edwards, what better guy to get knocked out by?” Before that fateful night, Stephens said he would've barreled forward and kept with the strategy that had worked so well for his career: seek and destroy. Afterward, he started thinking more about strategy. “It changed my game up,” he said. “I started…

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