While the welterweight title picture seems to be leading toward a rematch between Kamaru Usman and Colby Covington, the assumed No. 1 contender doesn’t believe Stephen Thompson should even be in the conversation.
Following his unanimous decision over Geoff Neal in the main event of December’s UFC Vegas 19 event, Thompson explained to MMA Fighting why he should’ve gotten a shot at the title before Jorge Masvidal got his second opportunity in as many fights at UFC 261 in April.
“Fight somebody you haven’t fought yet,” Thompson said. “You beat pretty much everybody except me in the top five. That’s it. Of course, you’ve got Michael Chiesa, who is No. 6, he hasn’t fought Michael Chiesa either. But keep on going down the line. You beat everyone up here, who’s next? It’s this guy.
“C’mon Usman! C’mon, man. Fight somebody you haven’t fought yet.”
The fight ultimately went to Masvidal, who went on to suffer the first knockout loss of his UFC run and second in a 50-fight professional MMA career.
Win or lose, Covington doesn’t see a world where Thompson should be granted another championship opportunity, and he explained why he believes Thompson sticking around would be bad for the 38-year-old’s overall well-being.
“The guy is a joke,” Covington told MMA Fighting while appearing on What the Heck. “He thinks he’s cool with his karate. He’s not a well-rounded fighter and he doesn’t deserve anything. He’s already had his title shots. He doesn’t deserve anything. Honestly, he should probably just retire.
“He’s gonna get hurt, for sure. He’s gonna come back for a paycheck, and these guys don’t know when to leave. You’ve got to know when it’s your time to hang it up. Your time has passed, you’re gonna get really hurt if you want to stay in this. But some guys want to take a paycheck to ruin their health.”
After rifling off seven consecutive wins — including a decision win over Rory MacDonald and finishes of Johny Hendricks, Robert Whittaker and Jake Ellenberger — Thompson fought Tyron Woodley for welterweight gold in back-to-back fights. At UFC 205 in November 2016, Thompson and Woodley fought to a majority draw in a “Fight of the Year” contender. The rematch took place four months later at UFC 209, and Woodley retained his title via majority decision.
Thompson went on to defeat Masvidal at UFC 217 and drop a controversial decision to Darren Till. In his next appearance, he was knocked out by an Anthony Pettis superman punch in his second consecutive headline spot at UFC Nashville in March 2019.
But in his next two appearances, “Wonderboy” showed he was still a threat, defeating Vicente Luque at UFC 244 this past November. After a 13-month layoff, he followed up with lopsided decision over Neal.
Earning a third straight victory against a former title challenger in Burns would certainly put Thompson in a prime spot to fight for the 170-pound strap. But Covington doesn’t agree that résumé warrants a shot.
“The thing is, ‘The Karate Kid’ — which is a joke he’s still calling himself a kid — the guy’s a 40-year-old virgin, he drives kids around in a karate van and wants to call himself a boy,” Covington said. “No, you’re a grown ass man, you’re almost a grandfather now. You can see the gray hairs coming out of the side of your head.
“If anything, that guy needs to stop complaining, man. He’s had, what, two or three title shots? He’s had more title shots than anyone in this division. He got destroyed by Woodley. He got dropped, bloody. Man, the guy’s a bum. I don’t know why he’s trying to talk like he deserves a title shot. You just got knocked out by Anthony Pettis like a year or two ago. A lightweight, a guy that’s not even signed by the UFC anymore. You’re on a two-fight winning streak. Your last fight you were beating a busboy for Outback Steakhouse. Think about that for a second.”