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Most important title for UFC’s Stevenson: ‘Daddy’

Most fighters sequestered from home in a lengthy pre-fight training camp complain of not being able to go out partying and long for a greasy, unhealthy meal.

But Joe Stevenson sounds truly upset that he hasn’t been awakened by one of his children in weeks as he prepares for his Ultimate Fighting Championship lightweight title fight against B.J. Penn today in Newcastle, England.

Perhaps it is that sort of dedication to family that earned the Las Vegan the nickname “Daddy,” though he is just 25 years old.

Having participated in 35 professional mixed martial arts fights (28 wins) since turning professional at 16 years old in 1999, Stevenson is experienced far beyond his years inside the cage and out.

He has been through a tumultuous childhood, the death of his biological father and a divorce.

But from his failed marriage came sons Joey (age 7) and Tyler (4), and Stevenson and his current wife, Maia, are the parents to Frankie (2). The couple is also expecting another child.

The stable relationship with his wife, and especially his children, has given Stevenson renewed perspective on his career.

“My family is everything to me,” he said during a recent teleconference. “As far as my legacy goes, it’s about my kids. I don’t want them to say that their dad is this great fighter — ‘my dad can beat your dad up.’ I want them to say, ‘My dad is a good dad.’ “

Stevenson has won four fights in a row and 13 of 14, a string that includes the Season 2 title match on “The Ultimate Fighter.” But today’s fight against Penn will be his toughest to date.

Penn, a former UFC welterweight champion, is widely considered one of the most physically gifted fighters in mixed martial arts.

Also on the card, Gabriel Gonzaga will meet fellow Brazilian Fabricio Werdum in a heavyweight matchup.

The card will be available on pay per view twice today on Cox Cable. It will be aired live at noon, then re-broadcast at the usual UFC start time of 7 p.m.

Contact reporter Adam Hill at ahill@reviewjournal.com or (702) 224-5509.

 

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