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After a spectacular UFC 143 debut against Daniel Stittgen, Stephen Thompson is set to make his sophomore effort at UFC 145 against tough as nails, Matt "The Immortal" Brown. Although Brown is the more experienced competitor, and has an iron chin to boot, he's very susceptible to submissions, and this factor may definitely come into play during this bout. I recently got a quick interview with the Wonderboy, where he discussed his training and the response to his newfound fan following.
Stephie Daniels: With your fight camp being pretty much complete, all that's left is the weight cut. How is that going for you?
Stephen Thompson: Yes, definitely. I'm in the weight cutting process right now, and everything is going great. This is my second time around for the UFC, and it's been coming off pretty easily.
Stephie Daniels: How has your training camp been this time around?
Stephen Thompson: Much better. I got to do some traveling this time. I was down in Florida with Rashad Evans for about a week and a half, and that was an awesome experience to train with those guys at Imperial Athletics. I also brought Nate Marquardt, who's another phenomenal 170 pound fighter. He was here for a week and a half training with me in my hometown, Simpsonville, SC. I also got to do some training in Dallas, TX with my brother-in-law, Carlos Machado, who has been my jiu jitsu instructor. It's been going really good, and I feel very confident.
Stephie Daniels: You and Nate Marquardt are both in the same management stable under Alchemist MMA Management, and are good friends. If he were to be brought back into the fold of the UFC, would a fight with him be a possibility somewhere in the future, or would it be out of the question because of your friendship?
Stephen Thompson: Yes, I am friends with Nate the great. That's what we call him [laughs]. Me and him are training partners, and right now, I'm at a totally different end of the spectrum. You know, he's one of the world's best MMA fighters, and sitting at the top. I'm just the up and comer. I mean, you never know what the future brings, and it would be a while before that even happened.
Stephie Daniels: The UFC loves a guy who puts on great performances, and with a solid win over Matt Brown, you may be moving up faster than you think. What are your thoughts on that?
Stephen Thompson: Yeah, I have got a good management company, and they'll do what they see fit, and what we feel comfortable with, so that's something to talk about. The Immortal is no joke. He's a tough guy, and a veteran of the UFC. I think it's a good step up for me.
Stephie Daniels: Matt is a very tough opponent, and tends to fight three round wars. What kind of preparation have you made for the possibility of 15 grueling minutes in the cage with him?
Stephen Thompson: Oh yeah, I'm prepared physically, and more importantly, mentally and emotionally. I'm looking forward to it. It would be great if I had a spectacular konckout like I had last fight, but that's something I'm not going to try to force. Every time I've tried to do that, the knockout is never there. People end up tiring themselves out trying to do that, so I'm just going to go out there, take my time and see what happens.
Stephie Daniels: You live in a small town in SC. What's the response been like in your town since your UFC debut?
Stephen Thompson: There's been a little hype around it, obviously, but I'm still the same old person, and everybody back home is still the same. It's just that you get a few more pats on the back and a few more autographs now. It's awesome. I'm just along for the ride, and I'm happy to be here and to fight for the UFC.
My homecoming was awesome. We own a martial arts school in Simpsonville. It's a small town, and we have about 750 students. It was pretty good. They had little parties and stuff going on for me, so it was a warm welcome home.
Stephie Daniels: Who do you try to impress more when you fight, your hometown crowd or the casual fans?
Stephen Thompson: I would have to say my hometown fans. They know me and they know my personality. They paid the money and drove two hours to get here, so I do it for them. Of course I want to do it for the UFC and Dana White, and hopefully try to get that bonus, but it's really all about my hometown fans.
Stephie Daniels: Have you spoken with Dana since your fight?
Stephen Thompson: Actually, I spoke to him at a press conference they had in Atlanta. It was about a week after my fight. He's a very nice guy, and he takes really good care of us. It was kind of brief, but it was a good conversation.
Stephie Daniels: When you were at Imperial Athletics, was Mario Sperry already there, and did you get to train with him?
Stephen Thompson: I don't think I saw him there, but they had some really good talent there. Some of the world's best in Brazilian jiu jitsu, and they had some really good wrestling and some really good muay thai. It was a good, spending time there with Rashad and his crew. He's developed a really good training camp for himself, and I'm happy for him.
Stephie Daniels: Did you make it up to Tristar for this camp?
Stephen Thompson: I tried to get up to Montreal for this fight, but wasn't able to. I kind of had some things going on here at the school that needed to be taken care of, but I got to go train with Rashad, which was good. My next fight and training camp, I'll go up there and do some training with Georges St. Pierre and the professor, Firas Zahabi. He's excellent, and one of the gurus out there.
Stephie Daniels: What's the dynamic like, having your father coach you?
Stephen Thompson: You know, it's good, because you've got somebody who really cares about you, and that's the kind of people that I want around me. He's very positive, he keeps me strong and he makes sure I have the right training. It's been really good. You see other father and son teams out there that didn't work out too well, but we show each other respect, and for me, it's great to have him around.
Stephie Daniels: What's been the toughest challenge in your career?
Stephen Thompson: I think it's just the dramatic change of going from these smaller shows to the UFC so quickly. I've had a tremendous amount of kickboxing fights and experience there, but in mixed martial arts, I haven't had much. I'm familiar with fighting in front of a lot of people, but nothing like the UFC. There's nothing else like it. I think that was the biggest struggle, just keeping the nerves down, and trying to keep your mind right.
Follow Stephen via his Twitter, @WonderboyMMA