Jeremy Stephens was dwelling in a big home in Zacatecas, Mexico, with Alliance MMA teammates as he ready for Saturday’s UFC Battle Night time fundamental occasion. And it wasn’t low-cost.
By the point he enters the Octagon to face Yair Rodriguez in Mexico Metropolis, Stephens can have spent six weeks coaching in Mexico at a price of round $30,000, greater than double what he would have spent if he would have skilled at dwelling in San Diego.
Why is he investing roughly 10% of his $300,000 purse to coach on the street? Two causes: It is an especially necessary bout as he tries to snap a two-fight dropping streak, and secondly, Cain Velasquez.
The final time Yair Rodriguez competed within the Octagon, he flattened “The Korean Zombie” with one second remaining of their battle. On Saturday, Rodriguez could possibly be concerned in one other memorable conflict, with hard-hitting veteran Jeremy Stephens opposing him within the UFC Battle Night time fundamental occasion in Mexico Metropolis.
UFC Battle Night time: Rodriguez vs. Stephens
• Saturday, Mexico Metropolis
• Prelims: ESPN+, 5 p.m. ET
• Important card: ESPN+, eight p.m. ET
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Stephens remembers watching Velasquez fall sufferer to altitude fatigue in 2015 when he misplaced his UFC heavyweight title to Fabricio Werdum. “Cardio Cain” grew to become referred to as “Sea Stage Cain” as a result of he struggled with Mexico Metropolis’s altitude of about 7,382 ft. Stephens would not desire a sarcastic moniker coined off his incapability to cope with altitude, which is why as quickly as he agreed to the situation of this battle, he knew he could be taking his camp south to coach at elevation.
“Cain Velasquez is a cardio machine, as you recognize,” Stephens stated. “When he received in there, he seemed sloppy. He was undoubtedly taken out [of the fight] inside two rounds. He was gassed out. I used to be like, ‘OK, altitude is actual.'”
And that actuality led to the brand new coaching camp in Zacatecas, which sits eight,005 ft above sea stage. Stephens’ teammates Angela Hill and Jose Quinonez are additionally on the cardboard and have been sharing the home with Stephens. Sijara Eubanks, who fights in Mexico Metropolis as nicely, joined in to assist pay bills.
“Cash would not actually matter to me when it comes all the way down to general profitable and beating somebody’s ass in their very own nation,” Stephens stated, referring to Rodriguez, a Mexico native. “What’s that [win] gonna do for me? It is gonna skyrocket my title, skyrocket my profession.”
Stephens remembers the Velasquez-Werdum battle vividly. It has develop into one thing of a case research for UFC fighters.
Velasquez’s arms grew heavy. His punches and kicks lacked vital affect. He wasn’t in a position to make use of his vaunted wrestling and energy for a takedown.
Velasquez was respiration closely. It was just like the air had “no substance” to it, Velasquez stated.
“The f—ing altitude is what did us — the altitude,” Velasquez’s coach Javier Mendez lamented within the fast aftermath of the June 13, 2015 bout.
Velasquez thought spending two weeks in Mexico Metropolis earlier than his battle was sufficient to acclimate his physique. It was not. Werdum, who fought in Mexico Metropolis beforehand, did a month-long camp within the Mexico mountains.
“It was virtually like my thoughts and my physique could not actually make the connection,” Velasquez stated. “Mentally, I wished to maintain doing stuff … however my physique wasn’t cooperating. It did not have the pop it usually has. It was f—ing like torpid virtually.”
Dr. Kevin deWeber, an skilled on efficiency at altitude, stated it takes between two to 6 weeks for the physique to acclimatize to excessive altitudes. There’s a decrease focus of oxygen at elevation, and it takes longer for the physique to ship oxygen to cells. He stated utilizing hypoxic masks or chambers will be considerably efficient, however they can’t totally simulate dwelling in high-altitude conditions and they aren’t fairly an actual science.
Yair Rodriguez, proper, is 2-Zero in UFC fights in Mexico Metropolis, together with a win over Charles Rosa on June 13, 2015. Ed Mulholland for ESPN
“Optimally, you are going to need to go two to 4 weeks early and relaxation for a number of days while you get there,” stated deWeber, a member of the Affiliation of Ringside Physicians. “Keep hydrated, keep away from alcohol, get restorative sleep and start a gradual coaching routine — one which is not instantly at full depth.”
Rodriguez spent three weeks in Temoaya, Mexico, which has an elevation of eight,760 ft. When he first arrived, Rodriguez stated he was throwing up and was exhausted in between exercises. After per week or so, he might see himself thriving whereas newcomers have been struggling throughout coaching.
“I might see the individuals coming later, I can see the distinction between them and I,” Rodriguez stated. “That is once I might perceive the distinction between what I am doing and different individuals aren’t doing. I might really feel the distinction and I can see it.”
Rodriguez fought in Mexico Metropolis at UFC 180 and UFC 188, on the undercard of Velasquez-Werdum. For the latter, Rodriguez stated he arrived one week early and felt drained within the battle. He did not need to threat that once more.
Mexico Metropolis is arguably probably the most logistically tough locale on the UFC calendar. The promotion runs exhibits all around the world, in lots of time zones and quite a lot of environments, however nowhere as excessive as Mexico Metropolis.
“When the UFC requires individuals to battle in Mexico Metropolis, everybody makes excuses,” Hill stated. “Everyone seems to be like, ‘Oh, I am sick, I am injured, I do not need to f—ing do it.'”
Angela Hill, left, who’s on Saturday’s UFC card, stated she discovered in regards to the difficulties of preventing at altitude when she misplaced to Tecia Torres in Mexico Metropolis in 2015. “I could not get any oxygen in me,” Hill stated. Ed Mulholland for ESPN
Hill misplaced a listless unanimous determination to Tecia Torres at UFC 188 after gassing out early within the battle. It was a depressing feeling, she stated, and she or he turned down subsequent presents to battle in Mexico Metropolis. However her purpose in 2019 is to remain energetic, and she or he looks like she understands now what it takes to carry out there.
“That was the primary time that I needed to lean on my coach after the battle,” Hill stated. “I could not get any oxygen in me. I felt like my bra was suffocating me. I pulled my sports activities bra, the elastic, away from my chest for a second and instantly all of the oxygen got here into my lungs. It was like, what the f—?”
For many occasions, fighters arrive to battle week on the Tuesday earlier than a Saturday card. In worldwide cities, they may come earlier in an effort to shake the jet lag. Mexico Metropolis is the one place the place it is essential to do practically a full coaching camp at elevation. That requires uprooting your life, shuttling in coaches and sparring companions and paying extra out-of-pocket bills. It is not a gorgeous proposition for a lot of fighters.
However for Stephens, it was an funding he wanted to make.
“I really feel like that is the place you get your most studying, while you put your self in probably the most uncomfortable locations,” Stephens stated. “This is not my dwelling, this is not my mattress. The recent water would not even work half the f—ing time. I am in uncomfortable territory, I am in unfamiliar territory. However truthfully, I really feel proper at dwelling right here. I really feel nice being uncomfortable. I get pleasure from it.”