The UFC Mexico City headliner was ruled a no contest after just 15 seconds when Stephens was unable to continue because of a Rodriguez eye poke. Stephens couldn't open his left eye after a five-minute recovery period, and the ringside physician advised referee Herb Dean to stop the fight.
A day later, Stephens said Rodriguez approached him at the JW Marriott hotel where the fighters were staying, and Stephens pushed him away after tempers flared.
"I thought he was trying to be a gentleman," Stephens said Monday on Ariel Helwani's MMA Show. "I get it. And he starts talking s--- to me. I was like, Bro, I'm not from a karate school, I'm from the street. I'm here to fight. I'm here to kill you. Right away, my mentality is back the f--- up. So, I shoved him."
Rodriguez told ESPN that he went up to Stephens "nicely" and asked him how his eye was. Rodriguez said Stephens told him it was fine and Rodriguez said he asked him if it was OK now, what happened in the fight? Things escalated from there.
"He pushed me like a little b----," Rodriguez said. "And I just told him, you will live the rest of your life with that in your head ... if you could continue and didn't. Shame on you."
Stephens told Helwani that he was rushed to the emergency room after the fight and had scratches and bruises on both eyes. He said both eyes hurt, but the left eye, the one he couldn't open, was worse. Stephens said doctors gave him a patch to wear on the left eye, but he took it off in favor of sunglasses. Stephens said he had no major or permanent damage.
"I was poked in both," Stephens said. "When I went back, my right eye was stinging pretty bad. There was a scratch on that eye as well. It is what it is. It was just a weird, freak thing. I just remember [Rodriguez's hand] coming down like [in] 'The Three Stooges.' His fingers were in my face."
Stephens has been medically suspended for 180 days because of a corneal abrasion but could be cleared by a doctor to fight earlier.
The 33-year-old said he would like a rematch with Rodriguez to settle the score and he does not believe Rodriguez poked his eyes intentionally. He named three potential events -- UFC Boston on Oct. 18, UFC 244 on Nov. 2 in New York or UFC Washington, D.C., on Dec. 7. Stephens and Rodriguez are both UFC featherweight contenders.
"I can get cleared," Stephens said. "My eye is fine. It's one of them freak things. It happens. I didn't know if it was gonna be worse or not. Fortunately, I came out on a good end. Thank God, because eyes are nothing to play with."
Rodriguez, 26, said he doesn't know if Stephens deserves a rematch with him. He said he'll pay to fly to wherever Stephens is, they can go to the doctor and he wants to personally see the results of Stephens' eye exams. Rodriguez said he is not sure whether what Stephens is saying is true, considering that hours later, his eyes were OK.
"I'm ready for the tests and the proof," Rodriguez said. "If I'm wrong, I'll apologize in public, no problem."
In the immediate aftermath of the bout, it was an ugly scene at Mexico City Arena. Fans threw garbage and beer at Stephens as he was escorted from the Octagon area by security. Stephens said he even felt hard objects, possibly coins, hitting him.
"I felt a couple of pesos and definitely had some drinks [hit me] before I ended up in the back," Stephens said. "I expected that from the fans. I've been in hostile territory before in Brazil. Whether I knocked him out, it might have been worse. I get it. People pay their hard-earned money to watch a fight. I knew they were gonna be rowdy, I knew they were gonna be on his side."
The UFC did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the situation.