“I know in my heart that I can finish Robbie Lawler”
Stephen Thompson, currently ranked #2 in the UFC’s welterweight division, is in the Philippines for a week-long media tour. MMA Philippines sat down with “Wonderboy” for an exclusive interview regarding the welterweight title picture and the movement among the division’s top five.
This writer in particular wanted to know whether Wonderboy, after his demolition of former welterweight king Johny Hendricks, will have the next crack at the divisional title. As per Thompson, “Nobody really knows what the UFC is thinking! I think the welterweight division is one of the most exciting divisions in the UFC right now because there are so many guys at the top level who could be the champion at any time.”
That said, Wonderboy is ready and willing to go against Lawler next, believing that he possesses the tools to dethrone the spirited champion. “Now, everyone at the top five except Tyron [Woodley] has fought Lawler and lost, so why not give the new guy a crack at it? I know in my heart that I can finish Robbie Lawler, take that belt home, and be a good champion.”
The kickboxing clinic Thompson put on Hendricks allowed Wonderboy to break through the welterweight division’s top five, leading some to argue that a title shot might be too early for the karate wunderkind. Should he need to fight one more time against one of the division’s top contenders, Thompson named two fighters that he feels would provide him with the most challenge.
“I think of two fighters in Rory MacDonald and Carlos Condit out of the top five guys, just because they’re more well-rounded martial artists. Rory, he didn’t come out with just one style; he came up doing mixed martial arts. And he’s one of the first to ever do that.
“Carlos Condit trains in one of the best gyms in the world. His stand-up is very good, as you saw against Robbie Lawler in his last fight. He puts everything together really well – his kicks and punches come from awkward angles; he loves to throw knees, elbows – and he’s a very exciting fighter as well. So he’s a dangerous fighter, too. Any one of those guys, it would definitely be an honor to step inside the Octagon with.”
UFC color commentator Joe Rogan hinted that a Thompson-MacDonald title eliminator is in the works, and in the most recent update on the UFC’s official rankings, MacDonald and Thompson moved up to take the top two spots, respectively, in the list.
With Thompson being a long-time sparring partner of former welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre (and Rory MacDonald is widely considered the heir apparent of GSP), we wanted to know if he and MacDonald have ever crossed paths before.
Surprisingly, the answer is essentially a “Not really.” “I have never actually sparred with Rory MacDonald. The last time I was there, I think he had a knee injury – I know he tore his ACL at one point. We’ve done some wrestling classes together, but we’ve never actually had MMA sparring. Because most of the time that I’m there, I was there for Georges – I’m his main sparring partner – but coming from the same gym that I train with, I know that if we ever face each other, he’s going to be on point.”
And while Conor McGregor led the way for many in the UFC to drink from the movement kool-aid, Thompson has been practicing movement way before the rise of “The Notorious One” – ever since he was 3 – which he believes is his distinct advantage should the MacDonald fight push through.
“[Rory] knows my style; but still, you can get as many sparring partners that can simulate [my] style, but it’s never the same when you step in there against somebody with [this] style. It’s very difficult to simulate that crazy style. It’s very frustrating. You’re always on edge. So I think I bring that into the Octagon.”
Catch Stephen Thompson preach the movement gospel in his public workout at 2:30 PM tomorrow, February 25, 2016, at the SM Mall of Asia Music Hall. He promises, “We’re bringing karate back!”