With UFC 216 in the bag it’s eyes on Madison Square Garden next month for UFC 217.
Three title fights will headline the event, but slotted in on the main card, Stephen Thompson and Jorge Masvidal will face each other in a tantalizing welterweight bout that could well steal the show.
Thompson has been out of action since losing his rematch with Tyron Woodley at UFC 209 and has been recovering from an injury he sustained in the fight. Speaking to exclusively to MMAUNO.com this past week, Thompson gave an update on his recovery and expressed his excitement for his upcoming return.
“I ended up tearing my meniscus in that fight, so I had surgery,” Thompson said. “I’ve been healing up since than and my knee feels great. The UFC kept me busy all summer man I went to Brazil, Singapore, Vegas, Buffalo, so I’ve been doing a lot of travel this summer.
“Apart from that it’s training, training, and more training. Now I’ve got this fight coming up with Jorge Masvidal on November 4 and I’m just itching to get back in that Octagon.”
Masvidal laid down the challenge
We live in an age where social media is becoming more powerful everyday and Thompson explained it was an exchange on Twitter that was the catalyst for him getting the fight with Masvidal.
“To be honest, I think that what happened on social media is a big reason why we got this fight,” Thompson said. “Masvidal wanted a fight right after he lost to Maia and to be honest, I thought he won it. He was looking for a fight and one day he tweeted me saying ‘Wonderboy when are we going to do this thing?’ I was like ‘Hey, I’d love to fight you after I’m healed up from this knee injury.’ and he was like ‘Cool’. That kinda sparked it off and from there we kinda just went back and forth for a little bit trying to get this thing worked out.
“The UFC at the time wasn’t involved in it all, but finally once I got that release, they rang me up and asked if I wanted the fight with Jorge. They loved it and thought it would a great fight for MSG, so here we are.”
Gambred is always game
Thompson knows that Masvidal isn’t a man to be taken lightly. “Gamebred” had been on a three-fight win streak prior to his loss to Demian Maia and was arguably just one win away from a title shot. Suffice to say, Thompson won’t be underestimating when they step in the Octagon on November 4.
“Jorge is a tough guy man, and everyone knows that,” Thompson said. “He’s a very well-rounded fighter and I don’t think he gets enough credit for his wrestling or his defensive jiu-jitsu which we saw against Demian Maia. I think it’s going to be an exciting fight and I think the fans are pumped for it. I’ve seen more fans talking about our fight than I have done the other fights on the main card so I’m happy people are looking forward to it as much as I am.
“It’s put a smile on my face, but at the same time I realize now it’s all about going out there and putting on a show.”
“Jorge is a very good striker and he likes to come forward. He’s not afraid to go in there and duke it out and his clinch work is some of the best in the welterweight division. It’s got fireworks written all over it—I need to come forward firing and that’s just his natural game.”
Promising fireworks at UFC 217
Wonderboy was widely criticized for the tactics he used against Woodley in their second fight at UFC 209. Woodley spent the entire fight looking to counter and with Thompson hesitant to made the first move it made for a fight that the majority of the MMA community didn’t particularly enjoy.
Some fighters cut themselves off from social media after a fight, but Thompson admitted he faced the music and was upset by the reaction the fight got.
“Seeing all the criticism and reading it all on social media hurt,” Thompson said. “It’s fired me up to come out and let it all fly. Tyron was just such a tricky guy because I didn’t want to wrestle with him and that was where he wanted to take me. He was just backing up and waiting for me to close the distance so he could either land his right hand or put me in a wrestling situation.
“I was waiting for him to come and strike with me in both fights and he just didn’t do it. He backed up the whole time and was waiting on me. I worked on closing that gap and just learning to let my hands go. I know I’ve got combinations that I can throw out there and that’s what I took from those fights. I just didn’t do enough in those two fights and at the time I thought I had it. I realized though that when you fight the champ you have to be the one taking the fight to them.”
“I’m going out there to bang against Jorge. I saw what people said on social media after my last fight, so I want to go out there and put on a show for the fans.”
Still in the mix at 170-pounds
Despite failing to win the title in back-to-back fights to Woodley, Thompson still finds himself in a position where he could easily be right back in the title mix with a great performance against Masvidal. The 170-pounds division has no shortage of guys who can make a run, but Thompson knows he’s still in around the title talk.
“The welterweight division is the one to watch right now because we don’t know who the number one contender is,” Thompson said. “It’s all up in the air and that’s what makes it all super exciting. We got so many guys in the mix right now. There are so many guys right now in the top ten—Robbie Lawler, Carlos Condit is back, Donald Cerrone, Colby Covington, Neil Magny. All of these guys are in the mix and I’m in there to.
“The thing is that I know if I go out there and put on a show, I’m right back in the mix. I just need to go out there and do what I know I can do. It’s all down to me now and I feel confident in myself to do it.”
“Trust me, I’m not giving up on that title. I’m nowhere near finished.”
Focused on putting on a show
With UFC 217 now less than four weeks away, Thompson has his head down is focusing on being in peak condition for November 4. Getting the win is first and foremost in Thompson’s mind, but putting on a memorable performance is also very important to him.
“What I picture and what I visualize is just me going out there and getting my hand raised,” Thompson said. “I want to go out there, put on a show, let my hands go. Jorge is clever and he’s got great fight IQ. This is going to be a hard fight and it’s going to be crazy man. It’s going to fun and the difference is this time there’s no pressure on me. Last time I was fighting for a title, but this time we’re just the first title on the main card.
“Not all the attention is going to be on me this time. I won’t have as many media commitments this time and I can just have focus on the fight. That’s a big relief and I’m going to take advantage of that.
“I’m coming to put on a show and I’m excited man.”