Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson was a combined martial arts phenomenon earlier than his UFC profession started.
Now he finds himself chasing the accolades that assist his early potential.
The American takes on Geoff Neal within the headliner at UFC Struggle Night time 183 this Saturday on the lookout for back-to-back victories in what shall be his first outing in 13 months.
It’s laborious to consider Thompson is 37 now, however the nickname ‘Wonderboy’ isn’t simply one thing cute or intelligent. No, he entered the UFC in 2012 with the sort of report that causes president Dana White to take discover.
In novice kickboxing, Thompson was 37-0. As a professional kickboxer, he was 20-0. As knowledgeable combined martial artist, he rapidly moved to 5-Zero and UFC picked him up. That’s 62 straight fights and not using a loss and you’ll see the place the thrill got here from.
Not that he had by no means tasted defeat in his youthful years.
“I discovered as a younger child to maintain my chin up and maintain coaching laborious. I do know what shedding seems like and I don’t wish to do it once more. That’s what pushes me now,” he stated firstly of his profession with combined martial arts’ largest promotion.
He embarked upon a six-fight win streak previous to getting his shot at Tyron Woodley’s welterweight title in 2017.
Thompson’s rangy kicks are his fabled asset, however how did he change into such a stud within the recreation at such an early age?
It was his life. Basically, his father opened a karate faculty primarily based off the actual fact he idolised and Elvis and the legendary singer practised karate.
Onerous to think about Ray Thompson ever envisaged that seemingly impulsive determination resulting in creating a well-known MMA combating son, however that’s the way it began.
“My dad grew up in a bit place close to Charleston referred to as Moncks Nook [in South Carolina],” Thompson recounted in 2017.
“He was an enormous fan of Elvis. Elvis was a seventh-degree black belt in karate. My dad knew that he couldn’t dance like Elvis or sing like him, however he thought perhaps he might strive karate, and he fell in love with it.”
Though Stephen discovered loads of fight sport in his home life together with his 4 different siblings – significantly his sister Lindsey who was a real standout competitor herself, his full-contact coaching started when he was 12 years outdated.
“Modesty, courtesy, self-control, integrity, perseverance, that indomitable spirit that’s not being taught a lot today,” Thompson says of his dad’s faculty.
Extremely, the United Martial Arts Affiliation ranks the college among the many prime 10 martial arts colleges within the United States, Canada, Australia, and Nice Britain.
At aged 15, having spent his early life nearly solely centered on coaching, he had his first skilled struggle and that’s the place his ‘Wonderboy’ nickname was born.
“Folks ask me once I’m going to vary it to ‘Wonderman’ as a result of I’m 34 now. Once I was 15, I fought a man who was 26 and he was 20-0, undefeated. It was a manner for my dad to point out me that I used to be higher than I assumed.
“I ended up beating the brakes off this 26-year-old man. After the struggle, the announcer requested my opponent the way it felt. He answered, ‘I’m wondering why I stepped within the ring with that boy.’” The announcer jumped on this, and he turned ‘Wonderboy.’
Regardless of the successful report, Thompson is aware of how it’s to lose. Together with his first shot at Woodley, Thompson has solely gained two of his final six UFC fights – with one victory coming over now field workplace star Jorge Masvidal.
In a world the place Conor McGregor and Masvidal thrive with their bigger than life characters, there’s nothing eccentric about Thompson. Only a love for the game and life.
He commits to each day prayers and mediation along with going to church on Sundays. He simply likes to follow martial arts, too.
He has a black belt in Japanese jiu-jitsu, trains Brazilian jiu-jitsu underneath his brother-in-law, eighth-degree black belt Carlos Machado, and says his wrestling is his second strongest ability behind his adorned and confirmed placing.
Thompson was meant to land in UFC sooner, however a knee harm that noticed him tear his ACL, MCL and PCL after which an ill-judged try and return too quickly, delayed his plans.
Upon getting back from the lay-off, Thompson started coaching with a number of the world’s greatest MMA minds, together with Georges St-Pierre.
His relationship with Rush developed years prior when GSP had been within the nook of a Thompson opponent, solely to look at ‘Wonderboy’ savagely KO his good friend.
The Corridor of Famer believed in Thompson’s expertise and the camps stayed in touch. GSP would name on Thompson a number of occasions to help in his camps previous to retiring final 12 months.
Is Thompson’s story going to be one among a prodigy that by no means fairly reached the mountain prime? Or will Thompson, the quantity 5 ranked welterweight, lastly seize the belt that Elvis-inspired coaching has been working in the direction of?