Jeremy Stephens was not in a good place following his TKO loss to Jose Aldo last July. He was the closest he’s ever been to a shot at a UFC title, and he was defeated in the first round by a brutal body shot. As a guest on The MMA Show at ESPN today, he revealed that he was contemplating suicide in the aftermath:
“After the fight, I was looking at my kids who were 9 and 7, and that was when my parents split up, when I was 8 years old. I was ready to leave my wife, leave my kids and just leave it all. Thinking suicidal thoughts.”
“I didn’t really believe in myself,” Stephens said. “Why should a young kid from Des Moines, Iowa, be a world champion? Right as I was about to get my title break, I would just drop the ball. There was no self-confidence. Those things were holding me back.”
He credits his coach, Eric Del Fierro, with saving his life by asking him to attend Choice Center in Las Vegas, where he was taught leadership skills.
“Little did I know, once I got in this program, all I had to do was change my mindset,” Stephens said. “Find some tools, discover a little bit more about myself. Share these things with people so that they can see where I come from and I can also learn from their life experiences.
”People look at us as fighters, and yes, I’m probably one of the toughest dudes you’ll ever meet, but I’ve also been down in the dumps. I’m a real human being. I’m a person, I have feelings, I have emotions. Going through this program has really put me on another level mentally. It’s helped my family. I’ve seen how it’s affected my relationships and opened me up to a whole new world.”
Stephens (28-15, 15-14 UFC) meets Zabit Magomedsharipov at UFC 235 on Saturday.