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If not for injured leg, Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson ‘would have loved’ to fight Leon Edwards

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UFC Fight Night: Thompson v Neal Photo by Cooper Neill/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Injuries kept Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson sidelined for one year between fights before he returned with a dominant win over Geoff Neal at UFC Vegas 17.

Now, a similar fate has prevented him from offering to take a short-notice opportunity against Leon Edwards at UFC Fight Island 8 in January.

During the latter part of his five-round decision win, Thompson threw a jumping knee strike that collided with Neal’s elbow, and the result was immense swelling that began building just above his kneecap. The former two-time UFC title contender finished the fight without incident. But Thompson said his leg will definitely keep him sidelined for the time being as he awaits final word from his physicians on the severity of the injury.

“I get an MRI on it tomorrow,” Thompson told MMA Fighting on Wednesday. “We’ve got to see what kind of tear it’s going to be. I think I have a quad tear. Hopefully it’s just a muscle and not the tendon. If it’s a tendon, I’ll have to have surgery. I couldn’t come out of that fight unscathed. Come on!”

According to Thompson, doctors have advised him that a tear in the tendon will require a surgical procedure to reattach the tendon to his bone. That’s why he’s hoping it’s just a muscle tear that can be healed with time off rather than going under the knife.

“I had two cuts on my face that are pretty much healed up,” Thompson said. “I have the cut from the head butt that is healing up nicely, and I’m still gimping around on my right leg. After the fight, we took the nieces and nephews to Disney World, and I had to be pushed around in a wheelchair for the first two days. After that, I was like, ‘Listen, I’ve got to get moving around on this thing.’ I’m still gimping around on it, teaching karate classes.

“We’ll find out hopefully tomorrow or the next day what the damage is, and hopefully, it’s not that bad and I’ll get back in there.”

The frustration of sitting out for over one year between fights in 2019 and 2022 was tough enough, so Thompson obviously doesn’t want another lengthy absence from the sport.

If not for the injury suffered against Neal, he absolutely would have considered putting his name in the hat as a potential opponent for Edwards, who lost his opponent Khamzat Chimaev for a main event scheduled in Abu Dhabi on Jan. 20.

“He was who I was shooting for to begin with,” Thompson said of Edwards. “Of course, he was not having it. I’m not really sure what happened with Khamzat, but I would have loved to stepped out there and fought him for sure.

“But at this point, with the injury and stuff, it doesn’t look like it’s going to happen but I would love to have faced him. That would have been awesome.”

Even without the injury, Thompson admits that he would still require his coaches to sign off on a short notice opportunity like that, especially considering the respect he has for Edwards as an opponent.

“The last thing I want to do is to be able to have that quick turnaround and not feel good about it,” Thompson said. “Of course, I’m sitting here injured and I’d love to sit here and say that I’d do it but that’s why you have coaches to make sure that you’re 100 percent before you do that.”

For now, Thompson will just wait for the diagnosis on his injured leg with hopes that he’ll get good news rather than bad so he can begin plotting his return during the first quarter of 2021.

“At this point, I’m walking around on it OK,” Thompson said. “Still limping a little bit, still really, really sore but me walking on it right now, it’s a positive thing. Hopefully, it’s not too bad.”

More than anything, Thompson is just anxious to build on the win over Neal as he continues to seek another title shot in the welterweight division.

Time waits for no one, and Thompson understands that concept all too well, especially after he was forced to watch from the sidelines following his previous win over Vicente Luque.

“Being out for a year, they forget about you real quick,” Thompson said. “Just to be able to go out and show everybody I’m still here. I can still hang with the best. Yes, I’m 37 years old and it’s funny how people mention that. I feel like I’m 25. You hear people talk about ‘the guy’s 37’ and somebody’s calling me a veteran and I’m like ‘am I vet?’ I had to think I’ve been fighting in this game for eight years so I guess so? I don’t feel like I’m a veteran of the sport. I’m still getting better everyday. I’m still in the mix with those young guys.

“It’s super cool to know that I’m still getting better. I’m still getting faster. Some people said that was the best Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson they’ve seen, so that right now puts a smile on my face for sure.”