Despite being just months away from turning 40, an age that few are able to reach with their skill set fully intact at lower weights, Thompson isn’t looking to slow down. This weekend, “Wonderboy” will make the walk for his 19th appearance inside the Octagon.
In his most recent outings, the 39-year-old saw his hopes of securing a third title shot in the UFC slip away courtesy of Gilbert Burns and Belal Muhammad, who were both able to expose Thompson’s grappling deficiencies.
Nevertheless, the 170-pound vet is still motivated by his desire to reach the top step of the ladder, and he’ll look to re-rail his train to the gold in Orlando on Saturday, when he meets Kevin Holland in the December 3 headliner.
While he’d impressed prior to his 0-2 effort in 2021, outpointing two current top-10 welterweights in Vicente Luque and Geoff Neal, Thompson’s consecutive defeats left some suggesting his time in the cage has come to an end.
Although he’s vehemently dismissed that notion, claiming to feel as good as ever, Thompson has noted the signs that may signal the end of his MMA tenure.
Thompson To Rely On Fatherly Advice
During a recent interview with CBS Sports’ Shakiel Mahjouri, Thompson assessed the factors that may force him into retirement.
“Wonderboy” has previously been vocal about his desire to become the UFC’s oldest-ever athlete. But should he take significant punishment in the coming years and feel his recovery becoming hampered, he’ll acknowledge that it’s time to go.
“I think that’s probably number one, how my body is feeling,” Thompson said. “I don’t take a lot of punishment in the fight game. I’ve been knocked out one time my entire career, with kickboxing and MMA combined. I remember after that, people were already saying I need to retire… If I’m getting knocked out consistently, then we’ll think about it. Taking punishment is a big thing, and I don’t take a lot.
“But also, how my body is feeling and how my recovery is. If I’m having a hard time recovering after a training session and it’s just getting to the point where I can’t get up the next day, then maybe that’s a sign,” Thompson added. “As long as I’m feeling healthy and not taking too much punishment, I’m gonna continue to do what I do.”
However, acknowledging the need to retire and subsequently following through with it can be tough, as evidenced by many veterans seemingly fighting beyond their means and suffering heavy losses because of it.
With that in mind, Thompson is relying on one ever-present in his career to be the indicator for the end of his time as an active fighter.
“I listen to my coach. My dad has been a part of my camps since day one. And he probably knows be more than I know myself,” Thompson admitted. “Me being a fighter, I’m gonna keep fighting and will ignore sometimes the fact that maybe we shouldn’t. So when he says I’m done, I’m done.”
Before ending his career, Thompson will be looking to return to the highs that left him regarded as one of the best strikers in the sport. And as unlikely as it may seem given the immense grappling talent towards the top of the division, “Wonderboy” isn’t giving up on a championship crowning just yet.
How much do you think Stephen Thompson has left in the tank?
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