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Stephen Thompson recalls being told by UFC not to wrestle after second win: ‘It wasn’t the most exciting fight’

UFC Fight Night: Thompson v Muhammad Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

Stephen Thompson is the real-life karate kid.

Since joining Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) in Feb. 2012, “Wonderboy” has been known as one of the best and most unique strikers in mixed martial arts (MMA). The sport is more than just striking, however, and when Thompson began rounding out his game after a tough first career loss to Matt Brown, he was informed to go right back to his roots.

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’BIGI BOY’ BRAWL! Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) returns to its APEX venue in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Sat., March 2, 2024, with a Heavyweight showdown between knockout artist and former kickboxing standout, Jairzinho Rozenstruik, welcoming undefeated Contender Series signee, Shamil Gaziev (11-0), to the Octagon proper. In UFC Vegas 87’s ESPN+-streamed co-main event, undefeated Vitor Petrino (10-0) looks to keep his perfect record intact at the expense of the once highly-touted Tyson Pedro in a Light Heavyweight scrap.

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“I think it was after my third fight in the UFC. I out-wrestled my opponent,” Thompson told CBS Sports. “It wasn’t the most exciting fight, but I remember afterwards someone in the UFC came up to me and said, ‘‘Wonderboy,’ it wasn’t your wrestling that got you here.’ So I’m like, ‘Alright, point. I’m picking up what you’re putting down.’ But that’s what the fans want to see and that’s what I’m known for, my striking.”

Thompson’s third UFC bout and second win in the Octagon came against Nah-shon Burrell via unanimous decision. A total of six minutes and 18 seconds of control time were secured by the Simpsonville, S.C., native in the victory. Listening to the advice, Thompson finished Chris Clements and future UFC Middleweight kingpin, Robert Whittaker, in his following performances.

This weekend (Sat., Dec. 3, 2022), Thompson looks to get back to his winning ways, snapping a two-fight losing streak after being stifled by strong grapplers, Gilbert Burns and Belal Muhammad. Thompson finds himself tasked with Kevin Holland in UFC Orlando’s main event and anticipates a typical showcasing of his karate-based striking game.

“What always goes in my head is that I want to be as exciting as possible,” Thompson said. “I want to put on a show for the fans and the UFC. When I get somebody like Belal or even Gilbert Burns, it’s not exciting for me because I just feel like it would be a boring fight. It’s just the guy shooting at your legs the whole time and just trying to control you on the ground. It’s not very fun.

“But when you got guys like Vicente Luque or Geoff Neal or Jorge Masvidal who are going to go out there and really put on a good fight — and of course, Kevin Holland — that puts a smile on my face,” he concluded. “I think that’s really exciting for me. Not just for me, but for the people watching.”

Remember that will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Orlando fight card right here, starting with the ESPN/ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 10 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance (also on ESPN/ESPN+) at 10 p.m. ET.

To check out the latest and greatest UFC Orlando: “Thompson vs. Holland” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.

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