Stephen Wonderboy Thompson: My next fight is Tyron Woodley
Stephen Wonderboy Thompson relives UFC 205 fight week, the majority draw decision, and how the week ended with feeling like a World Champion
UFC 205 was a night that will live in the annals of MMA History. While some stories had definitive endings, one championship battle will more than likely have a second chapter.
UFC 205 took place at the “World’s Most Famous Arena”, Madison Square Garden, and it’s co-main event added to a legendary resume of combat sports battles within it’s hallowed walls. Tyron Woodley defended the UFC Welterweight Championship against the Number 1 challenger Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson. From a memorable press conference, a featured bout that included a close friend and family member, the conclusion of the championship bout, to his arrival back home in Simpsonville, South Carolina, “Wonderboy” will remember this historic week as much, if not more, than any one of us.
Two days before the biggest event in UFC history, and the biggest fight of his life, Wonderboy sat down and noticed that to his right, there was an empty, yet uncharacteristically quiet seat. It was the chair of the now two division world champion, Conor McGregor, with whom he sat next to at the first UFC 205 Press Conference back in September.
Listen to the Stephen Wonderboy Thompson interview with SFLC Podcast below:
“Every time that guy’s out there, he knows how to put on a show,” Thompson said on the SFLC Podcast. “He had something up his sleeve…I knew it was going to be crazy, so when he showed up, I was enjoying the show.”
This was indicative to his feeling about the entire week in New York.
“It was huge,” Thompson said. I was walking outside, and having all the fans being there to greet you, it was bigger, man. It was definitely something very cool and positive. I was just trying to soak up the whole thing. Man, it was fun. I had a blast.”
As if the pressure of fighting for his first UFC World Title wasn’t enough, Thompson’s teammate, close friend, and family member, Chris Weidman, was having his own battle against Yoel Romero. A situation that isn’t easy for anybody, let alone preparing for your time on the biggest stage.
“I felt like I was getting ready to fight, stepping out there with him,” Thompson said when speaking of Weidman. “I know how dangerous Yoel Romero is. To watch him go out there and put on the performance I knew he (Weidman) could do, he was winning the fight. Controlling Yoel Romero, winning the striking exchanges, and THEN right at the last minute in the 3rd round he shoots and (Romero) throws up one of those jumping knees…It’s one of those fights, you know he’s winning, but you have to be on the edge the whole time…because you know what Yoel is capable of, he can come out of no where…It was devastating, man. My heart broke for Chris once I saw that. As soon as it was over it was go-time for me, so I had to step back and realize, ‘hey, I’m next, and I got to get ready!’.”
While Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson didn’t have Tenacious D singing him to the octagon like he had hoped for, it didn’t effect how special the walk to the octagon was at Madison Square Garden.
“I don’t think there is any words that can describe the feeling you get as you walk out,” Thompson said. “Tenacious D (“Wonderboy”) isn’t the type of song that pumps you up, but it puts a smile on my face. It puts me into this feeling like, hey man, I’m just happy to be hear. As soon as you walk out, you see the whole arena, Madison Square Garden, the cage in the center, just knowing that there’s thousands of people cheering for you, or millions of people across the world cheering for you to win or cheering for you to lose. It’s very emotional walk, knowing that you’re here getting read to fight for the title in Madison Square Garden. It was just unbelievable, man.”
The first round didn’t go the way the challenger had hoped. The champion Tyron Woodley timed a shot to perfection, took Thompson down, landed big shots, and the champion was ahead after round 1.
“I knew he was a strong guy,” Thompson said. “I knew he was gonna try to get me down to the ground. I didn’t expect it to happen the first round, ended up catching a lazy kick of mine. I was trying to set up something later on in the round, so I threw a lazy kick to see where his front hand would go, and dadgum it if he didn’t end up catching it. It was in my head, stay calm, we knew this was gonna happen. We got 4 more rounds to go.”
One of the major things Thompson learned in the experience of fighting a guy like Tyron Woodley, is how big and strong Woodley is for the Welterweight division. Thompson, like Woodley, was in the best shape of his career heading into MSG. There was one thing that he will change in the future.
“I felt in great shape. I could have been a little bit heavier in the clinch position,” Thompson said. “On the ground, I just wasn’t too powerful in those positions. I was walking around a little too light, so maybe I didn’t rehydrate up to where I could have been a little bit heavier. I think I was in the cage around 178, I weighed in, which is not normal for me. I usually get back up to 185.”
Thompson was able to loosen up a little bit more in rounds two and three, and then the fourth round began. It was a round that will remembered for the champion’s power, and the challenger’s heart. A Woodley right hand dropped Thompson, and as the challenger was attempting to gather his wits, the champion unloaded with powerful punches. To everyone’s surprise, Thompson was able to get to his feet, only to be put in more danger. Woodley caught Thompson in a standing guillotine choke, dropped to his guard, and cranked until he could crank no more. Thompson lived up to his moniker, “Wonderboy” escaped, even ended up on top landing ground-and-pound as the horn sounded. In a moment when you are in the fight with another human being, Thompson had another opponent to overcome, himself.
“You know what, at first it was very, very tight (the choke), but it was one of things, you know what, I’m not gonna tap, but I’m gonna end up going out,” Thompson said. “That was the plan. As soon as I said that, I feel his arms start to gas, it started to loosen up, and that was my chance to get out. I think being in that position , most people would have tapped. Go back and watch the video, that bicep was just tied up around my neck. He was trying to pop my head off. And to be honest, my neck is sore from the top of my head all the way down to my butt just from him yanking on that. It was tight, it was very tight.”
After surviving the round, Thompson remained patient throughout the fifth and final round. Thompson continued to counter and, at times, frustrate the exhausted champion. When the final horn blew, we were sure we had witnessed a tremendous display of heart and will, but what we didn’t know, is who would be victorious. Included on that list, was the challenger.
“I knew that he won the first and obviously the fourth…didn’t know it was a 10-8. I knew I won the second, third, and fifth round. I felt like I beat him in those rounds, but I wasn’t really sure what was going to happen,” Thompson said. It could have gone both ways, I felt I did enough to win those three rounds, but obviously they gave him a 10-8, I think it was the fourth round? (he then recalled one judge gave the first round a 10-8 score to Woodley) One of those things you never know what can happen in the UFC, what the judges were looking at. I don’t know if they were new judges in there, in Madison Square Garden, or what, but it is what it is. When they first announced it to him, I’m like, Ok, I could’ve seen that, but then they came back and I was looking at Dana White, he’s like, “No, dude, stay up here, it’s a draw, it’s definitely a draw.” I’m like what? It’s better than a loss, you know? And we can definitely do it again, and that’s what was going through my head as soon as soon as they said that. This is going to happen again. My next fight is going to be Tyron Woodley.”
The great news for the UFC and it’s fans, is that we will more than likely see a rematch of the “Fight of the Night” at the organization’s most historic card. The bad news is that a deserving challenger in Demian Maia, who has one six fights in a row, will more than likely have to wait for his chance, which is something Thompson feels bad about.
“I would just say, man, I’m sorry. He will get his shot, definitely,” Thompson said of Maia. “We just gotta break this, there can be no ties in the UFC, I think. We’re gonna fight and see who gets that title shot. Once that happen, he will get his. Just be patient.”
After a five-round World Championship fight with no conclusion, Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson remained positive, yet unfulfilled, as he traveled home to South Carolina with extra bonus money, but without the gold around his waist.
As his plane landed, Thompson was ready to head home and heal his wounds. What wound up happening, was a championship celebration presented by his community in Simpsonvile, South Carolina which included the key to the city. It was an emotional end to an emotional week.
“I had no idea that was going on,” Wonderboy said. “We got back from New York, fairly late, about 10:30…I just expecting to go home, chill out. Next thing you know, police officers jump in front of us and takes us downtown…Hundreds and hundreds of people down there, just supporting me even though I didn’t bring that belt home. It was cool to come back and see your community supporting you, so that definitely put a smile on my face.”
Stephen Thompson hopes to get his rematch with Tyron Woodley for the UFC Welterweight Championship in February of 2017.
Mike Heck is the a freelance MMA journalist covering the sport for a number of websites. Specializing in video interviews, Mike interviews everybody from prospects, to title contenders, to world champions, along with other influential personalities in the sport of MMA. Subscribe to his channel at https://youtube.com/mikeheckmma.