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Chris Avila calls Jeremy Stephens toughest test of his career: ‘It’s time to step it up’

Chris Avila has nothing but respect for Jeremy Stephens heading into their fight.

On Saturday, Avila faces Stephens in an eight-round welterweight boxing match on the undercard of the Jake Paul vs. Nate Diaz fight card. A former UFC and Bellator veteran, in recent years Avila pivoted to the sweet science, amassing a 3-0 record on the influencer boxing scene, but now he takes on the former longtime UFC veteran in what figures to be the most difficult fight of his pugilistic career. At least that’s what Avila told Ariel Helwani on The MMA Hour.

“I’d say so. 100 percent,” Avila said when asked if Stephens is the toughest fight of his career. “He’s not Dr. Mike. I’ve been running through these guys right now and it’s time to step it up and show everybody how good of a boxer I actually am. I know I’m going to get the job done, I’ve just got to go out there and get it done.”

Avila began his combat sports career on the mats of Cesar Gracie Jiu-Jitsu and spent seven years competing in MMA where he put together an 8-9 record. But his recent success in the squared circle has led the Stockton native to decide to focus his energy entirely on boxing for the foreseeable future and Stephens, Avila says, presents the appropriate step up in competition from the string of influencers he has previously faced.

“Right now (I’m fully focused on boxing),” Avila said about a possible return to MMA. “It’s kind of cool. I’m ready. I’ve always been consistent in fighting, I haven’t stopped, and all I’m coming with is more experience. I’m more mature. Right now, I’m barely getting started. I’m at my peak right now, so it’s going to be hard for someone to come and stop me right now. I’m on a good roll. I think Jeremy Stephens is a good opportunity, a good guy to fight right now, where I’m at, my position and his position.”

Stephens had a long and successful career in MMA, fighting for the UFC since 2007 where he put together a 17-18 career competing at both lightweight and featherweight. In 2021, Stephens finally left the UFC and had a one-year stint in the PFL before moving into boxing this year, losing a majority decision to Jose Aldo in his debut fight in April. Avila was extremely respectful of what Stephen has accomplished in his career, but come Saturday he intends to make it 0-2 for “Lil’ Heathen” in the ring.

“I don’t know how it ends. I’m going to go out there and do what I’ve got to do,” Avila said. “I’m going to get to work. I’m sure he’s going to come out guns blazing and he’s going to try and take me out, and I’m doing the same. I’m going to go out there and try to take him out and out-work him and show my skills. I believe I’ve got more skills in the ring to get the job done against Jeremy. Props to him but you better not be sleeping on me.”

And once his fight is over, Avila intends to sit back and enjoy watching his friend and teammate Nate Diaz do the same to Jake Paul in the main event, saying that all the doubters are in for a big surprise on fight night.

“I think everybody, that’s just how people treat him his whole career,” Avila said. “It’s nothing new to him. And that’s on them. On Saturday night, I’m sure everyone will be surprised again. He ain’t going to be surprised.”

Paul vs. Diaz takes place this Saturday at the American Airlines Center in Dallas.

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