PFL returns for the fourth event in the 2021 regular season, with the featherweights and lightweights taking center stage on the 10th of June. In the main event, undefeated boxer Claressa Shields makes the transition over to MMA, as she makes her debut against Brittney Elkin.
I had the pleasure of speaking to featherweight Jesse “Relentless” Stern, an extremely well-rounded mixed martial artist, someone who will never say no to a challenge. He and I talked about his journey towards his upcoming fight against PFL 2018 & 19 Featherweight Champion Lance Palmer. Jesse Stirn stepped in to replace Lazar Stojadinovic, who pulled out of the bout.
Jesse Stirn vs Lance Palmer
Jesse Stirn looks to make the best entrance possible in PFL against the former champion. He commits to the challenge of joining the second part of the regular season, with one opportunity to try and progress through to the semi-finals. Stirn’s desire to fight is what has got him here today, for one of the biggest fights of his career.
Stirn was an undefeated amateur, who started to make a platform for himself early in his professional career competing in Maryland’s own Shogun Fights. Three finishes in his first three bouts, that would see him take on a challenge in Cage Fury Fighting Championships against Giorgi Kudukhashvili. This was the first time Stirn faced defeat in an MMA bout, his reaction showed the type of person and fighter he is, with him back to winning ways only three months later.
Taking it to the ground or keeping it on the feet are both healthy options for Stirn. He earned his way to becoming the bantamweight champion in Shogun fights beating former UFC fighter, Mike Easton, for the belt. The wrath and determination to get the finish from Stirn is a huge attribution in his game, with the quality of his grappling and boxing also. Palmer faces a tough test to bounce back after losing in his first fight of the new season against Bubba Jenkins.
Only in April, Stirn competed in a Cage Fury bout against Reginald Adams. He bounced back from the defeat in his previous for the featherweight championship in Cage Fury against Pat Sabatini. He didn’t let the loss affect him, he learned, studied, and improved his game, where he delivered with a dominant victory over Adams.
Lance Palmer is a very experienced competitor on the ground with eight submissions in his 22 victories, but only two of those submissions coming in PFL. The two-time PFL Featherweight Champion struggled in his first performance of the season, with Jenkins being the first man to defeat Palmar since his defeat to Andre Harrison when he lost his World Series of Fighting belt in 2017.
With 18 decision victories between the pair, the athleticism between them shows they can go the distance. This time around, both fighters may be desperate for a different outcome, with the top five in the current featherweight standings on three points or above. Remember, you are awarded only three points for a victory. It’s six points for a first-round finish, five for a second, and four for a third.
Jesse Stirn: The Road to the PFL
How did martial arts come into your life and have you always wanted to pursue a career in MMA since you started?
Jesse Stirn – After high school, the recreational sports opportunities ran dry and I wanted to remain active. In 2010 I witnessed my first MMA fight on TV. I thought of it as an interesting skill set that everyone should learn. Then after learning there are so many different styles and life lessons to be gained I fell down the rabbit hole.
Like everything else I became hooked and progressed until I was offered a fight. Before being offered I had no dream to compete. It came naturally. Later becoming a professional, allowed me to dive further and spend more time on this project. It’s amazing the amount of ridicule you receive when you are passionate about something that has no monetary gain. That instantly went away.
You beat Kenny Kirk in an amateur Muay Thai bout, what made you choose an MMA career over Muay Thai?
Jesse Stirn – Haha you must have read my Tapology page (Maybe). They do not carry “all” the accolades. I actually never chose. I will do either one. Also, Bare-Knuckle, Boxing, or even Lethwei if requested. I went on after that to take the Muay Thai North American amateur title for WKA. Then progress onward in my career taking several trips to Thailand. (2014)(2018) I’ve had 3 professional Thai bouts.
I see you have your own youtube channel displaying your techniques and skills, do you do any coaching now or is that something you look to pursue in the future?
Jesse Stirn – My main focus is to learn and train as much as possible. Finding new things to add to my game. But yes, I teach one class a week and work on teaching methods. I truly look forward to my retirement when I can focus on teaching and training others full time. But not yet…..we still have plenty of fights to give.
Was there a big difference in your first professional fight from your amateurs, can you describe your feelings before and after?
Jesse Stirn – It felt the same anxiety-wise. You were still going to fight another human being who has been methodically planning to take you out as well. The amount of people and venue was the biggest difference. From 500 people watching to 5,000 people watching. Easily forgotten when someone started throwing spinning kicks at your receding hairline.
How did you pick yourself up from your first ever loss against Giorgi Kudukhashvili?
Jesse Stirn – It’s simple. Do you have a choice?
Did winning the title in shogun fights give you the belief you deserved to be in a bigger promotion or did you feel you were good enough before?
Jesse Stirn – I personally have never felt that way about belts or achievements. There is only improving on what you have. Then when you feel like the greatest ever the next step is to go see someone you know will prove you wrong. Learn from that experience. Rinse Repeat.
What do you think of your last two performances in CFFC against Adams and Sabatini? You fought there earlier in your career but did you feel the pressure of rejoining going straight into a title fight?
Jesse Stirn – There are always things to improve upon and Sabatini made me look foolish. So I followed my procedure mentioned in question 6. Worked on my wrestling. Then performed 5 takedowns in the fight against Adams.
Nope. No pressure. That’s the only type of fight I will get from now on. I’m used to it.
Tell me about the call from PFL to fight for them, what happened and when exactly?
Jesse Stirn – I was originally approached about an alternate position in April but missed the opportunity because of quarantine protocols. Then last week, May 18th I was approached to be an alternate for the upcoming second half of the regular season. I gladly accepted. That’s what is difficult about being in alternate. You do not know if or who you will be fighting. Someone dropped….and Lance Palmer became a new puzzle for me to figure out.
You face the previous PFL featherweight champion, what are your thoughts on Lance Palmer and would you class this as the biggest fight of your career?
Jesse Stirn – The super bowl champions are called champions throughout the year. He’s still champion until a new one is crowned. Mr. Palmer is as tough as they come and very good at what he does. Most people miss what his other strengths are besides wrestling. I see them. We will have to see if he wants to play ball. This fight is tied for first place in my fight resume. Mike Easton is the top so far.
Finally, what do you think of PFL as a promotion with it being different to the others and at 29 years old do you feel your in your prime right now?
Jesse Stirn – I personally love PFL as a promotion. I love the others as well (UFC, Bellator, ONE) but I do enjoy the league format. How it makes having one loss not that important. But consistent losses will lose you the overall war. It’s a breath of fresh air in a game that usually tells you to retire after a single loss. In respect to my prime. It is hard to say when my prime is…..I haven’t experienced my early thirties yet.
But I will leave this by saying I wouldn’t mind knowing what I know now in a younger body, but I also acknowledge the fact I wouldn’t know what I know now unless I spent my body and years doing it.
Featured Image Credits to Jesse Stirn