Stephen Thompson may be knocking on the door of 40, but he has no plans on walking away from his fighting career any time soon.
“Wonderboy” returns to action this Saturday when he faces Belal Muhammad in the co-main event of UFC Vegas 45 at the APEX. The card will serve as the final promotional event of 2021 for the UFC.
Thompson has been hampered by injuries over the years, but is set to make his second appearance of the year. When asked if he has set a number in terms of the age he wants to stop competing, Thompson said he’s going until the proverbial wheels fall off — or until his dad says otherwise.
“I want to break records,” Thompson told Ariel Helwani on The MMA Hour. “I want to be the oldest guy who ever fought in the UFC. They’re gonna have the break out a senior division or something. That’s the plan.”
Arguably a win away from fighting for the welterweight title for the third time, Thompson faced Gilbert Burns at July’s UFC 264 event and had his two-fight win streak snapped via unanimous decision.
The No. 5 ranked fighter in MMA Fighting’s Global Rankings understands why he was offered Muhammad — a fighter ranked a few spots behind him — but doesn’t quite grasp why some of the top-five welterweights won’t do the same.
“I thought it was great,” Thompson said of the matchup with Muhammad. “I was in his shoes not too long ago and I felt the same when I fought Geoff Neal, Vicente Luque. These guys that were ranked ahead of me — I was ranked No. 9 — and you had Johny Hendricks give me that opportunity. So why not give that opportunity back to these guys that are up and coming?
“I don’t mind [fighting behind me] and it keeps me focused. There are guys ranked above me that are just waiting. Why wait? Why wait when you can improve and keep testing yourself against these new up and comers? Belal Muhammad is that guy. He’s tough. He’s good everywhere, but he’s known for his toughness and his cardio. Especially after losing to someone like Gilbert Burns, the way that I lost was terrible, but it fires me up knowing I’ll be facing off with somebody fairly similar, who is not afraid to shoot a takedown, maybe he’ll take a page out of Gilbert Burns’ book but I’ll be ready for anything.”
With a several years left in his octagon career, Thompson has been getting boosts of motivation from the year’s new champions such as Brandon Moreno, Julianna Pena, Charles Oliveira and Charles Oliveira for their abilities to overcome adversity and tough losses to get their chances to become champion.
After two cracks against former champion Tyron Woodley, there’s nothing more that would make Thompson happier than to earn his way back to one more opportunity, possibly against current champion Kamaru Usman.
“They’re running out of guys,” Thompson stated. “They’ve got to give him someone fresh, someone he’s not used to. That’s the goal. I’m not dwelling on it, but I’d like to fight for it again, for sure.”