While Jeremy Stephens stated that he respects Drakkar Klose a year after an unfortunate incident at a pre-fight staredown a year ago, that doesn’t change anything in Klose’s eyes.
In April 2021, Klose and Stephens were scheduled to compete at UFC Vegas 24. After both fighters made weight, they squared off in front of matchmaker Sean Shelby. Stephens unexpectedly shoved Klose, which led to injuries that forced Klose out of the bout — and out of action for another year.
Since then, Stephens has parted ways with the UFC and signed with the PFL, where he’ll make his promotional debut at the promotion’s season kickoff event on Wednesday in Arlington, Texas. While “Lil’ Heathen” is sick of talking about the shove, he did praise Klose for his performance in stopping Brandon Jenkins via second-round TKO this past Saturday at UFC Vegas 51.
“You know, I’d imagine with everything that we’ve been through and all of the chaos, and people misquoting me, all that s***, I wish nothing but the best for him,” Stephens said (h/t MMA Mania). “He went and got his win and battled through a lot of s*** that he’d been going through. I have nothing but respect with him going forward. I hope he goes in there and kills it and gets to the top.”
Klose, in response, isn’t buying what Stephens is selling.
“Someone told him to say that. That’s bull****,” Klose told MMA Fighting in an interview that will drop on the podcast version of Heck of a Morning on Thursday. “It is what it is, and hopefully he wins his fights in the PFL and makes it back to the UFC so I can fight him.”
Klose made the walk to the octagon for the first time since suffering a second-round knockout loss to Beneil Dariush at UFC 248 in March 2020 and earned his first UFC stoppage win, as well as a performance bonus. The 34-year-old — who has returned to training at The MMA Lab after a short stint at fellow Arizona gym Fight Ready — was happy to be back for his own fight week. When he faced off with Jenkins on the eve of the bout, Klose didn’t feel like he needed to keep his guard up after what took place with Stephens a year prior.
“I know it’s not his style, so we did a little re-enactment [at the face-offs],” Klose said of Jenkins. “Jeremy, he’s that type of guy, he needs to try and get the other guy angry to get the win, to get [his opponents] to brawl it out with them.”
Speaking with MMA Fighting in April 2021 shortly after the incident with Stephens, Klose admitted he wasn’t thrilled with how the UFC handled the situation — more so with UFC president Dana White almost praising Stephens for being “a savage” in the moment and not penalizing the 47-fight veteran.
While Klose says he’ll have a lot more to say of the situation when his career comes to an end, he has learned a valuable lesson about the fight game, and his pursuit of professional happiness.
“I just know it’s a business now, I’ve got to take care of myself first before anyone else,” Klose explained. “That’s how I’m going to treat the rest of my career: I’m going to make my own business choices.
“When I got in this sport, it was like, ‘I want to be the champion,’ but there’s a lot of behind-the-scenes [things]. Not anybody can be a champion. The UFC, they know who they want to be champions, and they push the guys that they want to be champion. But if I keep winning, and do it spectacular, maybe I’ll get a shot at that title someday.”