Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson will be the first to tell you, Anthony Pettis wasn’t an opponent he had in mind for his next fight.
While many fans have voiced their displeasure with the former featherweight title challenger facing Thompson, the South Carolina native isn’t taking his opponent lightly.
“He’s very good at jiu-jitsu, he’s submitted some high level jiu-jitsu players [like] Michael Chiesa.” Thompson told MMANews. “I’m prepared wherever the fight goes. He has a Taekwondo background, I’ve got a Karate background that’s why it’s going to be a great matchup. I’ve been a fan of his for a while because of his style. We have a very similar style. To go out there and play that style against each other is exciting to me. To play that chess match and out do them in their own game. To be honest with you I think Anthony Pettis is more prepared for my style than anyone in the 170-pound division. Most of the guys that I have faced have been wrestlers or boxing style fighters. I think Anthony will be more prepared because of his Taekwondo background which is exciting to me. I haven’t faced anybody that is used to it yet.”
Thompson (14-3-1) looks to avoid back-to-back losses for the first time in his career when he faces Pettis in the main event of UFC on ESPN+ 6 in Nashville on Mar. 23. Losing two of his last three fights to Tyron Woodley and Darren Till, Thompson has been criticized for having boring fights. The 36-year-old believes Pettis is the type of opponent that will bring out the best in him and that we’ll see the old “Wonderboy” in this matchup.
“This has barn burner written all over it. I mean he’s an exciting fighter anyways. I think just the competition of trying to outdo each other in our styles will be fun for the fans. I’m predicting a knockout man, it’s going to be fun.”
Despite losing out on a matchup against Robbie Lawler – who faces Ben Askren on Mar. 2 at UFC 235 – Thompson says he’s still interested in that fight. One of the main things he’s emphasized is the need to keep fighting top level competition in the division.
“It really doesn’t matter [who’s next], anyone in the Top 5. Like I said I’ve wanted to fight Robbie Lawler for a while. I’m not sure where he is in the rankings right now. I think anyone in the Top 5 would be a fun fight for the fans. If they say Robbie Lawler, give me him. I’ve been wanting to fight him for a long time and I’m a huge fan of his. Hopefully he does work when he fights Ben Askren, it’s going to be a fun fight.”
One of Thompson’s close friends, former UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre, announced his retirement on Feb. 21. The former Karate champion was surprised by the decision feeling “GSP” still had a few fights left in him.
“I figured he would have had one or two more fights in. He still looks great and he’s a martial artist. When the guy doesn’t have a fight he’s constantly training. I know he was into gymnastics for a while, to do something different. He’s a long life martial artist. But hey man he doesn’t have to fight in my eyes. He’ll always be the champ and the best of all time in my eyes. Especially in the 170-pound division.”
One interesting tidbit Thompson revealed was that St-Pierre actually called him ahead of the rematch against Woodley at UFC 209, saying that he would never fight him if he decided to return to the welterweight division.
“Last time I talked to George was when I fought Tyron Woodley for the second time. He called me and wished me luck and said [he] wanted to fight again that that he’d never fight [me]. Just letting me know if [I did] get that title [he] wouldn’t touch it. It was more of a respect thing. I don’t’ think I’d ever fight GSP either. At one point there was talk of me fighting him. He was my idol man.”
UFC on ESPN+ 6 takes place at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, TN on Mar 23.