The most mild-mannered smack talker in the whole dagnabit game strikes once more.
Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson really is a fantastic UFC fighter to listen to in interviews, but more so because of what he does not say rather than what he does.
While everyone enjoys the bravado of the likes of Conor McGregor, Nick Diaz and Donald Cerrone, it really does make for a nice change of pace when one listens to a Thompson interview. While certainly not dull, indeed he is quite a charismatic speaker, it is funny how completely lacking in animosity he always seems to be towards his opponents.
Rather, he really seems to embody the old southern gentleman cliche. It is to be commended that he has never felt the need to imitate more abrasive fighters on the UFC roster. Instead he is happy to be himself and let his performances showcase how lethal he is capable of being.
His latest interview on Submission Radio is another perfect example of this. Thompson addresses the comments which Tyron Woodley has levelled towards him with more of a soothing calm than someone out to ruffle some feathers.
That is not to say, however, that the Karate-based fighter does not ooze self-confidence as he spoke with great conviction about how he felt he matches up well with Woodley. In particular, he referenced the fact that Rory MacDonald won convincingly over the current welterweight champion.
Having defeated MacDonald by unanimous decision himself in June, he makes a persuasive argument for his status as the favourite going into this contest:
“If you look back at his fights, he doesn’t throw a double or go for the takedown very often. Tyron wants to put those hands on you and wants to try and knock you out. I think once he gets a little frustrated, obviously he’s gonna try and do that, just like everybody else that I’ve faced.
“I think pretty much the hardest opponent in the division is Rory MacDonald. I mean, Rory pretty much schooled Tyron Woodley.”
He does of course relent when most UFC fighters would go into overdrive predicting their inevitable victory:
“But I can’t take this guy lightly and that’s how I go in looking at this fight. A lot of people are like, ‘oh man, you’re gonna crush this dude and Tyron Woodley, he smoked him’ and you know what, I don’t think like that.
“I’m not the type of guy to do that. Because I want to prepare for the best guy, and that’s Tyron Woodley. That’s the guy standing in front of me. I’m preparing myself as if this is going to be the hardest fight that I have ever faced – and it possibly could be. I want to be ready for five, five-minute rounds.”
Other great insights from the interview include that Thompson first heard about his being awarded this title shot while he was teaching a children’s class. It was one of his pupil’s mothers who got to deliver the good news as it came up on her phone.
The keen-eyed amongst you may have also noticed that during the UFC 205 press conference last week when McGregor was really beginning to goad Eddie Alvarez, a hand was visible sneaking into shot, carefully grabbing McGregor’s water bottle and Monster energy can and moving them away to safety.
“I made sure it was kind of out of his reach so I wouldn’t get hit if that started happening.”
Vincent Whelan, Pundit Arena