As a karate specialist, you might see a crop of young welterweights, like the one that exists now, and not be particularly excited. It seems like every time we turn around, there is another dangerous wrestler-type mauling opponents on their way to the UFC’s top 15. Khamzat Chimaev made waves when he did it twice in less than a week. Now folks like Sean Brady are also making a name for themselves.
However, for Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson, there is no worries at all. In fact, when he sees the current crop of newbies to the 170lbs class, he’s excited.
“I think it’s great that we got these new up-and-comers. It’s almost like we made a full circle,” Thompson said, recalling his early days in the UFC. “I remember when the UFC had just those beast wrestlers coming in. Everybody else had to evolve with it, had to get better at their wrestling.”
And even at 38-years old, Thompson still feels like that type of fighter helps him improve. Not only that, but it helps keep him pushing towards something bigger and constantly testing himself.
“I like it. It makes me have to improve. It makes me have to get better,” he said. “I think that’s one of the reasons why I’m ranked number five. A lot of guys above me sit there and wait on titles.”
You’ll never be able to accuse Thompson on waiting for anything. Instead, he looks to continuously go after those up-and-comers in effort to show that he still has it. Plus, it also is his way of paying it all forward from earlier on in his career.
“When it was me doing the up-and-coming, these guys at the top – like Jake Ellenberger and Johny Henricks and Rory MacDonald – gave me the opportunity to try and beat them and take their spot,” Thompson said. “I kind of want to give that back to those up-and-coming guys like Vicente Luque and Geoff Neal and Belal Muhammad – not just the guys ranked above me. It keeps it fresh and it keeps me hungry.”
We’ll get a chance to see the latest edition of hungry Wonderboy this Saturday. He faces the aforementioned Belal Muhammad in the co-main event of UFC Vegas 45.
You can hear the entire audio of this interview at 2:19.