Stephen Thompson is not a happy camper.
Well, he is Thompson, so there’s always a smile on his face. But his current expression has a tone of frustration buried behind it. Why? Back-to-back losses that have left him a significant distance away from the welterweight gold.
After entering 2021 on a two-fight win streak and with hopes of securing a title shot, Thompson’s late-career surge was quickly stalled. That came courtesy of the wrestling-heavy approaches of Gilbert Burns in July and Belal Muhammad in December, both of whom controlled “Wonderboy” en route to comfortable decision wins.
But despite the setbacks, Thompson, who boasts aspirations of becoming the oldest active fighter in UFC history, isn’t giving up on his championship goals just yet.
During a recent interview with MMA Junkie’s Mike Bohn, the 39-year-old welterweight vet claimed to have learned a lot from his 2021 setbacks, something he’s looking to make the most of when he returns to action.
“There’s a lot of things that I learned from those last two fights. I’ve had wrestlers in the past try to do that, but, you know, you’ve got a new wave of high-level wrestlers, and not just straight wrestlers, but they’re so well rounded,” Thompson said.
“So, I gotta go back to the drawing board and really focus on, not just defending the takedown — I think I learned that off of my Belal Muhammad fight. There was a time there where I almost had him in a guillotine and he backed up real quick. So, not just defending the takedown, but being dangerous in those situations as well, when guys are shooting in,” Thompson continued. “We’re going back to the drawing board and making sure I’m dangerous everywhere. It was a problem on my part.”
“Wonderboy” went on to describe the willingness of both Burns and Muhammad to employ a ‘lay and pray’ approach, which he described as “boring.” Perhaps that’s contributed to a feeling of annoyance, with Thompson admitting that he’s more motivated than ever having been “pissed off” by his recent contests.
“You’ll never see me down. That’s just who I am, man,” Thompson said.
“The losses motivate me, for sure. And it kinda lit a fire in me. My last two fights, I don’t like to say it, but pissed me off a little bit. It gives me the fire to go back to the gym and learn more.”
While rising contender Sean Brady had hoped to make it three for three in terms of wrestlers getting the better of Thompson, the #7-ranked contender recently shut that down, and instead called for a clash against relative welterweight newcomer Kevin Holland, who has also had his grappling struggles in the past.
His search for a striking battle could also take “Wonderboy” to the doorstep of former opponent Jorge Masvidal, who has expressed interest in a rematch down the line.
Who would you like to see “pissed off” Stephen Thompson share the Octagon with next?