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UFC Vegas 17: Sorry UFC, but Stephen Thompson isn’t going to be your gatekeeper

MMA: UFC Fight Night-Nashville-Thompson vs Pettis Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Stephen Thompson’s record over the last few years isn’t exactly the best, going just 2-3 since 2017. That said, “Wonderboy” has been fighting the cream of the crop, losing to the likes of Anthony Pettis, Darren Till and Tyron Woodley, with whom he also fought to a draw. He does have a win over Jorge Masvidal sandwiched between.

But, despite his recent lackluster run, the striking standout says he is far from a gatekeeper, and if Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is trying to view him as such, it has got another thing coming.

“They are trying to make me the gatekeeper and it is not going to happen,” Thompson told Just Scrap Radio on BJPENN.com. “I went 10 rounds with Tyron Woodley, beat Jorge Masvidal, a controversial loss to Till, and then getting knocked out to Anthony Pettis doesn’t help.

“My last two opponents have been ranked below me and I haven’t fought anyone ranked above me,” he continued. “Hopefully, they aren’t trying to make me a gatekeeper, I’m not a gatekeeper. I have a lot of fight left in me and I want that title shot.”

His setbacks haven’t done much to take him out of the Top 5, so whether people believe it or not, Thompson is still one of the best 170-pound fighters competing in the game today. He will look to earn back-to-back wins for the first time since 2016 this Saturday night (Dec. 19, 2020) when he faces off against Geoff Neal in the main event of UFC Vegas 17 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

“I never go out there looking for the knockout, if it happens, it happens. The more you fight the top-ranked guys the more skilled they are and the harder the knockouts can be,” Thompson added. “Everyone says I haven’t knocked anyone out in a while but look who I am facing. It would be good to finish a guy like Geoff Neal. I’m not looking for it, but if it is there I will take it.”

Neal hasn’t tasted defeat in more than three years, winning seven fights in a row, including his first five contests inside the Octagon. “Handz of Steel” last competed one year ago, knocking out Mike Perry at UFC 245 in “Sin City.”