Exclusive: ‘Wonderboy’ talks about his upcoming fight and his inspiration to get into MMA
One of the most anticipated fights this year is set to go down tomorrow, as Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson steps inside the Octagon with the perennial number one contender at 170 pounds, Rory MacDonald.
While Rory is coming off a closely fought loss against Robbie Lawler last year, Stephen’s stock has risen in the UFC with his dominating victory over the former Welterweight champion, Johny Hendricks.
Stephen Thompson put on a striking clinic, and impressed everyone with his takedown defense against an elite wrestler in Johny. The fight between number one and number two ranked WW fighters will essentially be a title eliminator, with the winner potentially fighting the Welterweight champion next.
Both the fighters will face off in the main event of UFC Fight Night 89, while Cerrone takes on Cote in the co – main event.
What has been impressive about Stephen’s game is his footwork and movement, and with the growing fad about movement training in the world of MMA, Stephen Thompson believes the emphasis on movement is only going to grow.
“I think so. But I think everybody – the fighters are starting to understand that now, and the game is evolving. You got a lot of high-level fighters now – Conor McGregor, Gunnar Nelson, Lyoto Machida – obviously to understand that, and to keep the fight standing, and keep from getting taken down”, he told us in an exclusive interview.
“Constantly working on your takedown defense; for me, working with my wrestling coach Thomas Lee, my buddy Matt Miller who is a Canadian wrestler as well, and Chris Weidman – these guys make me wrestle all the time, and make 170 seem easy.”
Thompson knows Rory’s game very well, and knows that Rory’s style is similar to former Welterweight kingpin – GSP’s. Rory and GSP use their effective jabs to set up their takedowns, and Stephen is all too familiar with their styles.
The fact that Stephen switches his stance, and can switch to a southpaw stance gives him the advantage, and Wonderboy is confident about his chances.
“I’m not a traditional southpaw; I switch back on both sides. If you go back and watch my fight with Jake Ellenberger, I had my right side forward. [In the fight against Hendricks] I came out with my left side forward and kind of switched in between during the fight”, he added.
“But, um, yeah, I know he’s got a really good jab; all the guys in Tristar are really well rounded. Just be ready for that single leg takedown. His style is very similar to Georges’; use the jab to set up for the takedown. I know that, and they evolve over there. So, to each opponent they come out with a good game plan.”
With Stephen just two fights away from becoming the Welterweight champion, I asked him about potentially facing Conor McGregor down the line.
Conor is set to face Nate Diaz in a rematch at UFC 202, and both the fighters will be fighting at 170. If Conor manages to beat Nate, there is a good chance that Mystic Mac will continue to fight at 170.
“Oh yeah, I mean, we’re both fighters and understand that it’s business. It’d be an honor to step out there inside the Octagon with such a great fighter, and it would be a huge fight. I mean, anybody who is stepping inside the Octagon with Conor McGregor, it’s going to be a big payday.
It’s going to be exciting to see how this fight goes and how he does.”
Stephen also told me about his inspiration to get into MMA, and said it was none other than Georges St. Pierre who made him switch to MMA.
“You know, actually Georges St. Pierre was one of my inspirations to get into Mixed Martial Arts. Even before I got into MMA, I was into kickboxing and I was training at Tristar to help GSP with his training camp, training with Firas Zahabi and those guys were my inspiration to switch over.”
“So, I made the switch in 2010 and I had 5 professional fights before UFC called in 2012. And here I am man, in 2016, number two ranked guy in the world!”
Finally, Wonderboy also expressed his desire to come to India in the near future, and had a message for the UFC fans in India.
“Oh that would be amazing”, Stephen said about the possibility of making a trip down to India. “I’ve never actually been down to India. But I hear it’s a great country, and I hear that MMA is evolving there. It’s growing, and you know, it’s the fastest growing sport in the world. And I would love to [come to India].”
“I would just want to tell the fans to keep following me, and to follow me to see more of what I’m about. Follow me on Twitter and Instagram at @WonderboyMMA. Hopefully I can meet the Indian fans someday.”
You can catch UFC Fight Night 89: Rory MacDonald vs. Stephen Thompson at 8.00AM on Sunday, 19th June 2016 live and exclusive on Sony SIX and Sony SIX HD.