Jeremy Stephens was living in a large house in Zacatecas, Mexico, with Alliance MMA teammates as he prepared for Saturday's UFC Fight Night main event. And it wasn't cheap.
By the time he enters the Octagon to face Yair Rodriguez in Mexico City, Stephens will have spent six weeks training in Mexico at a cost of around $30,000, more than double what he would have spent if he would have trained at home in San Diego.
Why is he investing approximately 10% of his $300,000 purse to train on the road? Two reasons: It's an extremely important bout as he tries to snap a two-fight losing streak, and secondly, Cain Velasquez.
Stephens remembers watching Velasquez fall victim to altitude fatigue in 2015 when he lost his UFC heavyweight title to Fabricio Werdum. "Cardio Cain" became known as "Sea Level Cain" because he struggled with Mexico City's altitude of about 7,382 feet. Stephens doesn't want a sarcastic moniker coined off his inability to deal with altitude, which is why as soon as he agreed to the location of this fight, he knew he would be taking his camp south to train at elevation.
"Cain Velasquez is a cardio machine, as you know," Stephens said. "When he got in there, he looked sloppy. He was definitely taken out [of the fight] within two rounds. He was gassed out. I was like, 'OK, altitude is real.'"
And that reality led to the new training camp in Zacatecas, which sits 8,005 feet above sea level. Stephens' teammates Angela Hill and Jose Quinonez are also on the card and were sharing the house with Stephens. Sijara Eubanks, who fights in Mexico City as well, joined in to help pay expenses.