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Stephen Thompson unsure about fighting during pandemic, prefers Leon Edwards fight over Colby Covington

Stephen Thompson has had to wait a while to follow up on his most recent win and given the current situation regarding the coronavirus pandemic, it could be longer still.

“Wonderboy” has been on the shelf since suffering injuries to both of his hands in his last outing, a unanimous decision win over Vicente Luque at UFC 244 in November that earned him and Luque a Fight of the Night bonus. The victory snapped a two-fight skid, the first losing streak of Thompson’s career, and kept him in the thick of the welterweight title hunt.

With recovery going well, Thompson has been able to at least think about when he could return, but the South Carolina native isn’t sure if it’s a good idea for him to take a fight given the potential risk of catching the COVID-19 virus and possibly spreading it to more vulnerable members of his community when he returns home.

“For me, as a fighter, the fighter in me says yes. I would want to take the fight for sure,” Thompson said during an appearance on the What the Heck show. “If they take the right precautions, which I think they are, with travel and everything—It’s just, you know, South Carolina is full of grandparents. It’s full of elderly people and we have a lot of kids at our school that are being raised by grandparents, their grandparents take them, and they’re in their 80s and 90s. So it’s something that I would never want to bring back to them because just the way things are going.

“If they make the right precautions, then for sure, the fighter in me says yes. The karate instructor in me says it would be very difficult for me to do that for sure. Because this is my number one thing. I fight for the fun of it. I just love to compete, the money’s a bonus, but my job is right here at the gym. That’s what I love to do, is teaching kids. So I would have to sit down with my pops, the boss man, and see where we go from there. But the fighter in me says I would love to.”

The UFC was planning to go through with its next scheduled pay-per-view, UFC 249 on April 18, but that event fell into tumult after first needing to be moved out of Brooklyn due to coronavirus concerns (according to reports, the plan was to host it on tribal land in California) and then later being canceled altogether along with the remainder of the UFC’s 2020 calendar.

Thompson liked that the UFC made an effort to keep events going—especially the rumor of cards being held on a private island—and sees the promotion as being in a difficult situation when it comes to the court of public opinion.

“There’s always gonna be somebody upset. Always,” Thompson said. “It really is and I know that firsthand. I feel like I’m kind of a likeable guy, but there’s always that one person out there that just wants to like, ‘ugh’ [makes jabbing motion], especially on social media.

“It’s the same everywhere you go. There’s gonna be somebody that’s gonna be upset with whatever answer they get, so all you can do is keep on keepin’ on.”

As for himself, Thompson probably won’t have to worry about making a decision to fight since his hands are still healing and there are no cards for the foreseeable future. It’s also doubtful that he could take any fight soon as he joked that in his current shape, he might be closer to fighting at 205 pounds than 170.

When he does return to action, he’s eyeing fights with anyone in the top-5 of the contenders’ rankings, which includes the streaking Leon Edwards and recent title challenger Colby Covington.

“Those are always the guys that I’m looking for, anybody in the top-5 for sure,” Thompson said. “You’ve got Leon Edwards—I’ve already fought Tyron twice, I don’t think anybody wants to see that again—but Colby Covington for sure. Both guys are very, very high level in their craft, and I think that Leon Edwards is the better MMA fighter than both. He’s got really good striking, and that’s what he was in the beginning was a good striker, but now you’re seeing him use his wrestling, his jiu-jitsu, he used it against RDA. When he fought Vicente Luque, he took him down, I was like, ‘What the heck?’ And those are the guys you really have to prepare for because they’re different every time they step out there and Leon Edwards is that guy, which is why he’s on a crazy fight winning streak.

“Colby Covington, everybody knows what’s gonna happen when I fight him. He’s just gonna shoot and shoot and shoot and shoot. His striking doesn’t even compare. Could he hit you and knock you out? For sure, but I’ve definitely fought better strikers than him and I think Leon Edwards is the better MMA fighter for sure and those are the guys I want to fight right there. Any one of them, I really don’t care at this point in my career. I’m ranked No. 5, I’ve got a small window to kind of do what I want to do and I want to fight the best in the world. Who can say that, right? It’s like an anime. You’re fighting the best guys in the world, it’s crazy. I’m like, heck yeah man, let’s do it.”

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