It was clear to anyone watching that Stephen Thompson’s win over Vicente Luque was a difficult one, but the toll it took on him was even greater than it seemed at first glance.
“Wonderboy” earned a unanimous decision over Luque to snap a two-fight skid at UFC 244 in New York City, and he later told the media at Saturday’s post-fight press conference that he injured his right hand in the second round, which limited his options in the final five minutes of the bout.
“It’s definitely broken. The knuckle’s kind of back here (points to the middle of the back of his hand). So I don’t know if you can see it, but it’s kind of soft and gooey right here, but back here it’s fairly hard,” Thompson said. “I’m not a doctor, but I’m pretty sure it’s broken. It’s not the first time I’ve had to do it. When I fought [Jorge] Masvidal back here at [UFC 217], I ended up breaking both my thumbs in the first round and I have to keep fighting, the other two rounds is pretty rough.
“But I done it once, I can do it again, so that was kind of what I was—I wasn’t really thinking, I was just doing. If you’re thinking out there, it’s too slow, so if it hurt, oh well, but it did kind of slow me down in that third round because everytime I threw it, I swear I hit this guy as hard as I could, he just kept coming forward. I don’t know how many times I knocked him down, but tough, golly.”
A two-time UFC welterweight title challenger, Thompson called Luque “the toughest guy I’ve faced in the Octagon.” He believes the injury occurred in the second round when he landed a punch on Luque’s forehead. Despite a possible break, Thompson continued to throw the right hand in the third round. His efforts paid off as he went on to take a convincing decision on all three judges’ scorecards.
Thompson is looking to return soon now that he’s back in the win column and he projected that he could fight again in three months as long as his hand injury isn’t too severe. As for who he’d like to fight next, he had his sights on the winner of Saturday’s main event between Masvidal and Nate Diaz, particularly because Thompson owns a November 2017 win over Masvidal.
The Masvidal-Diaz fight was for the newly created “BMF” belt (Masvidal defeated Diaz by cut stoppage) and Thompson joked that it would be “really cool” to see “the nicest guy versus the baddest guy,” especially if the fight moved him closer to another title opportunity.
“Hats off to Masvidal, he definitely deserves it,” Thompson said. “Like I was telling everybody before, that’s my inspiration. He did, I beat him at UFC 217, now after two or three fights he could be up for the title next. I could be there this time next year for sure.”
Thompson will be 37 next February and a 1-3-1 record in his last five fights raised questions as to how long he could continue fighting after years spent competing in MMA and kickboxing.
He insisted that retirement was not being considered, win or lose, but that getting back in the win column meant a lot for his career. And that any pressure he was feeling heading into this contest was par for the course.
“I would say a lot. After a third loss, it wouldn’t be pretty good, especially in the UFC’s eyes,” Thompson said. “I’ve seen guys get booted out for less than that. So all this stuff is going through your head, but for me that’s just like, man, that shouldn’t be in my head. That negative stuff shouldn’t be there. So every time that would pop in my head, I would fill it with something positive. ‘I’m gonna go out there and win this thing.’ ‘I’m gonna end this fight with my hand raised.’ So that’s what I was trying to do going into this fight.
“Actually walking out there’s so much that pops in your head. ‘You’re gonna die!’ That’s literally what you’re thinking. I’m wishing like an astroid comes down and blows the place up so I don’t have to fight. All this stuff is going through your head, it’s crazy. I’ve got close to almost 80 fights and every time I step out there it’s the same. But I think when that goes away, maybe I need to hang it up.”