UFC welterweight contender Stephen Thompson will make his return to the Octagon this Saturday night against Anthony Pettis, and if he prevails, he has visions of getting another title shot sooner rather than later.
“Wonderboy” twice challenged for the title vs. Tyron Woodley, going to a draw the first time before losing a majority decision in a widely panned rematch at UFC 209. With Woodley dethroned by Kamaru Usman earlier this month at UFC 235, Thompson considers this a major positive for him as he looks to get back in the win column this weekend.
“Having a new champion, I knew it was going to be better for my career,” Thompson told MMAjunkie. “Nobody wants to see Thompson vs. Woodley 3, and I kind of understood that. I would have to have two or three more fights before I even get that shot again. This, now that we’ve got a new champion, is going to be a faster way up.
“The division has changed dramatically since the last time I fought. Got a new champion, Darren Till got knocked out by a guy that I’ve already beat. It’s up in the air. I’m ranked No. 4 right now, so any one of us could be fighting for that title again.”
That “guy that I’ve already beat” is Jorge Masvidal, whom Thompson bested in an impressive unanimous decision at UFC 217. It’s Thompson’s only victory in his last four fights, dating back to the first Woodley encounter in November of 2016.
While he is still ranked in the UFC’s top-five, his opponent Pettis has never fought at welterweight before and is coming off a loss to Tony Ferguson at UFC 229. Given that the likes of Ben Askren, Santiago Ponzinibbio, Jorge Masvidal, and Leon Edwards are also very much in contention (and Colby Covington is penciled in to face Usman next), Thompson may yet still find it hard to get to a title fight again.
His aspirations aside, Wonderboy sees his matchup with Pettis as having high potential for fireworks.
“This is definitely going to be a straight-up ninja fight,” Thompson said. “He’s very flashy, and I like to throw different angles and different kicks, too. So it’s going to be whoever is the best ninja that night.
“I know he’s very crafty. He’s got good jiu-jitsu, good wrestling, and I’m prepared wherever the fight goes. I’m expecting and the fans are expecting just a barnburner, and that’s what we’re going to give them.”
UFC Nashville airs live on ESPN+ with a main card start time of 8 PM ET/5 PM PT.