Stephen Thompson is all healed up and eyeing a November return to the octagon.
With the ever-evolving state of the welterweight division, “Wonderboy” knows he has limited options currently on the road to another title opportunity.
Thompson last competed at UFC 244 in November where he defeated Vicente Luque via unanimous decision at Madison Square Garden. The 37-year-old broke both of his hands in the victory, an injury that took quite a bit of time to heal, according to Thompson.
Just as things were starting to come together for a return, the world changed, along with Thompson suffering another odd, accidental injury at the hands of his brother-in-law and former middleweight champion Chris Weidman.
“Everything’s good,” Thompson told MMA Fighting while appearing on What the Heck. “My injuries are healed up and it kind of took a weird turn. I broke my hands in my last fight, it’s almost been a year since my last one. It took forever to heal and I’m not sure why. Maybe I’m getting older, I don’t like to think that but you don’t get good circulation in your hands anyway.
“I was looking to make a comeback in May, June, and then COVID hits and everything’s shutting down. Then, I had Chris Weidman come into town and he spent a lot of his camp with us. He ended up picking me up and dumping me on my freakin’ head and I ended up dislocating my collarbone. Everytime I would throw a punch, or fall down, my collarbone would kind of rub across my breast plate. It was super painful.
“Everything is fine, now. I am on a quest right now. I don’t know who I’m gonna fight but I am ready. I am itching to get out there to do it again for the fans and for myself.”
After coming up short in back-to-back title fights against then champion Tyron Woodley, Thompson went on to defeat Jorge Masvidal at UFC 217, before dropping a controversial decision to Darren Till at UFC Liverpool in May 2018. The Upstate Karate product then went on to suffer a second-round knockout loss to Anthony Pettis at UFC Nashville 10 months later.
Thompson is looking to get back to work and sees two potential options—one of which has recently taken the MMA world by storm this week.
“As of right now, I am opponent-less,” Thompson said. “I hear Nick Diaz wants to come back. I’m just throwing it out there: hey, Nick, let’s break it down. I will welcome you back to the welterweight division with open arms, sir. In the nicest way possible, the ‘NMF’ [‘Nicest Mother F**ker’] way.
“And then you got Leon Edwards, who I think is the scariest dude in the division. I don’t care what people are saying. The guy has improved so much with his takedowns and his jiu-jitsu. He’s out-grappling grapplers. You saw what he did to RDA and he did the same thing to Vicente Luque. He came into the UFC as a great striker and he gets better every day. He can knock you down and take you down. Those are the kind of fights I like.”
Diaz, 37, hasn’t competed since dropping a unanimous decision to Anderson Silva over five years ago at UFC 183; the loss was overturned to a no contest after both competitors failed drug tests. It’s been almost nine years since Diaz won his last fight, a unanimous decision win over B.J. Penn in the main event of UFC 137 in October 2011.
Since fans have been teased with rumored Diaz returns multiple times over the years, Thompson—although he’d love the chance to face the Stockton, Calif. native—isn’t quite sold on it.
“I’ll believe it when I see it,” Thompson said. “When it’s a set and done fight, then I’ll believe it. He’s said several times that he’s coming back. He’s a great fighter. He’s like GSP, a lifelong fighter. Is he going to have some tricks up his sleeve, or is he going to be the same fighter as he was before?
“I’m anxious to see, if it’s possible, what is something different that he brings to the table. Everybody around him and the game has changed so much since the last time he’s fought. Has he made the changes as well? But I’ll believe it when I see it.”
The most viable option for Thompson in the eyes of the MMA community is a bout with Edwards since they are the top-ranked fighters in the division that aren’t currently or reportedly booked for their next bouts. “Rocky” has won eight straight fights and was arguably in prime position for a title shot—which went to Gilbert Burns at UFC 256.
In a recent interview with Submission Radio, Thompson didn’t seem all that enthused about facing Edwards, due to, perhaps, the freshness of Diaz’s possible return.
Days later, he has seemed to change his tune. In addition, Thomson can relate to where Edwards sits in a loaded 170-pound division.
“I’ve kind of been in that situation where I’m right there,” Thompson explained. “I’m this close to winning the title. Do I take another fight and possibly lose? Because that would take that chance away. I know where he’s coming from and it can be frustrating. If he wants to fight, he’ll want a money fight which is why he’s calling out Masvidal. He’s the shiz, the bee’s knees and everybody wants to fight him.
“He’s right there. But you know what? If he wants another fight between now and then, I’m here. I’m here, Leon Edwards. If you want to do it, let’s do it. I know we’re managed by the same people, and I respect the guy. I like the guy, He’s a super, high-level fighter. But if he’s looking for a fight, I’m here in my gym, in a meditative position, waiting.”