Despite fighting a lower-ranked opponent, Stephen Thompson is just happy to have his next fight booked against Geoff Neal on Dec. 19.
“I’m just looking get back out there and knock the cobwebs off a little bit,” Thompson told MMA News. “Because I had been out with some injuries and of course, the whole COVID thing happened. But yeah man, (Neal’s) tough. I know he’s on a five-fight winning streak, a good boxer. So I just thought it would be a really good time to step back in the octagon. Why not against a guy like Geoff Neal? He’s getting better every time that you see him fight, which makes the fight even more exciting for me.”
Thompson (15-4-1) hasn’t fought since a Nov. 2019 unanimous decision victory over Vicente Luque at UFC 244. The 37-year-old tried securing a fight against #3 ranked Leon Edwards, however the UK standout wasn’t interested.
“(Edwards) was saying that nobody was calling him out, so I’m like, I’ll call you out in my nice words,” Thompson said. “And he just kind of blew me off. It didn’t help him out one bit. Him talking all this smack saying ‘Everybody’s keeping my name out their mouth’ and hear a guy in the top five saying, ‘Hey, I’ll fight you.’ Then him blowing me off, you know, it didn’t fit well. And the fans didn’t like it and now he’s fighting Khamzat. I would rather find the number five guy than somebody who’s not ranked at all, you know? So I feel like maybe he’s kind of regretting it now.”
Neal (13-2) was scheduled to fight Neil Magny at UFC Fight Night in August before a serious health scare pulled him from the card. The 30-year-old is undefeated in the Octagon, with five-straight victories.
Thompson isn’t taking his opponent lightly, and is expecting a war against the Fortis MMA product.
“I’m always prepared for a three, five minute round fight war,” Thompson said. “But I think it’s a great fight for me. And on top of that, it’s a great fight for Geoff Neal because if he beats me, it puts him in the top five. So why you would I want to take this fight? I think proved myself against a fighter like him against Vicente Luque. I can take a hit and keep on coming forward. So without giving too much away, I visualise myself in my hand raise at the end of the fight.”
UFC Fight Night takes place on December 19th at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas. Leon Edwards battles Khamzat Chimaev in the main event.