Thompson’s late-career surge towards gold came to a halt in 2021 courtesy of a pair of ground specialists. At UFC 264 in July, “Wonderboy” was controlled by Gilbert Burns, who took home a unanimous decision victory on the scorecards. Five months later, the two-time title challenger fell to the same fate, this time against Belal Muhammad.
With those grappling-heavy losses in mind, Thompson is looking to return to the win column next time out by facing someone who will keep the fight in his wheelhouse. Because of that, the veteran welterweight has even rejected the UFC’s desire to match him with the rising Shavkat Rakhmonov next.
Having held firm on his demands, a few names have come up as possible opponents for Thompson’s next fight, which he hopes will go down inside Madison Square Garden on November 12. That includes Bryan Barberena, who suggested that he offers the exact fun and entertainment that “Wonderboy” is after.
Now, Thompson has approved Barberena’s callout, as well as a possible collision with another electric striking 170lber.
Pereira & Barberena Fit The Striking Bill For Thompson
During an appearance on Just Scrap Radio last week, Thompson named Michel Pereira as a possible opponent, noting that the Brazilian would help him put on an “awesome” contest inside the Octagon.
“I’m looking at Michel Pereira, I think that would be an awesome fight. He’s an up-and-coming guy who’s definitely down to bang and strike,” Thompson said. “I think he also called me out on social media, so I think that would be a good fight, for sure. Michel Pereira would be a fun one, that one interests me, for sure. He’s exciting, I’m exciting. My last few guys that (I could strike with, we got) Fight of the Night and won bonuses, so I think that would be a fun fight for sure.” (h/t BJPenn.com)
As well as displaying a flashy style that always gets fans watching, “Demolidor” has been rising the ranks in recent times, with 2022 victories over André Fialho and Santiago Ponzinibbio extending Pereira’s win streak to five and placing him at #15 on the welterweight ladder.
But the Brazilian isn’t the only option that Thompson approves of. During a recent episode of his What’s Up Everybody?! podcast, “Wonderboy” gave the green light to not just Pereira, but also “Bam Bam” Barberena, who most recently stopped Robbie Lawler at UFC 276.
“Now you got Michel Pereira calling me out, you have Barberena calling me out, ‘You want a striker, I’ll strike with you.’ So, I think that’s awesome,” Thompson said. “They’ve come up on social media, (not the UFC). Pereira and Barberena would be awesome. Barberena’s right up the road from us, he trains out of Gym-O. Would be an awesome fight.
“Pereira would be a great fight. I think he’s ranked, just beat Ponzinibbio. He’s an exciting fighter, too, and that’s the kind of fight I want right now,” Thompson added. “Then we can go back to grapplers.”
Who would you rather see Stephen Thompson face next, Michel Pereira or Bryan Barberena?