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Joe “Daddy” vows a Father’s day victory

Story and photos by Chris Cozzone

Fighting the night before Father’s Day, Joe “Daddy” Stevenson, father to three boys, is confident he will come out ahead over Nate Diaz, Saturday night at The Ultimate Fighter Finale—for two reasons.

“I am not gonna lose one day before Father’s Day,” is one reason.

The second?

Two months of training at his new training camp, under Greg Jackson in Albuquerque, N.M.

“I came out because I felt I needed a change,” says Stevenson, who’d trained for the majority of his career in his hometown of Victorville, Calif. under Robert Drysdale. “I had a lot of distractions at home.

“I had two losses – but I haven’t dwelled on those losses since I came here.”

Those losses – a decision to former Jackson fighter Diego Sanchez in February and a submission to Kenny Florian, in November 2008, not to mention a similar loss to B.J. Penn earlier in the year – do not bother Stevenson in the least.

“In the past, those losses would’ve weighed on me,” admits Stevenson.

“I could’ve given any excuse why they happened. But not here. In the two months I’ve been here, there’s been no reason to look for one.”

A positive environment and a positive team that includes UFC and WEC superstars Keith Jardine, Georges St. Pierre, Leonard Garcia, Donald Cerrone, has transformed Stevenson—as has trainer Jackson and Coach Mike Winkeljohn.

“I’m much more focused,” says Stevenson. “Mentally. Emotionally. Physically. This is home now. Victorville is still my home town, but this is where I train.

“Everyone has contributed here, and having Greg is like having Chuck Norris in my corner.”

Jackson has noticed a remarkable improvement in Stevenson.

“He’s always had stamina and he always came at you,” says Jackson. “But now, he’s explosive. He’s unpredictable. He’s learned to channel his aggression in creative ways.”

As expected, Stevenson will leave it up to his unpredictability Saturday night when he enters the Octagon to face Diaz.

“I am absolutely not taking him lightly,” he says. “He’s well-grounded and aggressive. And just when you think you have him, he does something.

“But I will push the pace—hard, if he starts to buckle.”

Though he’s taking it one fight at a time, Stevenson predicts he’ll be up for a title shot in one to five bouts.

“Give me a year,” he says. “I want that belt.”

Another thing Stevenson wants is a rematch—several of ‘em.

“That means Diego Sanchez, that means B.J. (Penn) and that means Florian.

“I’ve always known I have it in me. But what I’ve discovered is, it’s not whether you have it in you, but the why you should be in there. Now I know why.”



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