Things couldn’t have gone much better for Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson than they did during his debut fight in the UFC.
Thompson stepped in on short notice to make his UFC debut and then even got a little extra treat when his opponent changed just a few days later.
The 57-0 kickboxing prodigy didn’t bat an eye at the changes however, and instead uncorked a headkick knockout of opponent Dan Stittgen late in the first round to win his first fight in the Octagon, and a few hours later took him ‘Knockout of the Night’ honors.
“Words can’t describe it, I was definitely on cloud 9,” Thompson told MMAWeekly Radio after his fight.
It’s sometimes tough to get attention when you’re on the undercard for a major UFC pay-per-view, but ‘Wonderboy’ certainly did his part to get more than a few eyes on him. Even UFC President Dana White raved about his performance, but he already knew a lot about the karate kid after hearing so much courtesy of UFC commentator Joe Rogan.
“Joe Rogan has been talking about this guy in his sleep. Every time I talk to Rogan, he was going crazy about this kid and then for him to come in and pull off a kick like that was awesome,” White said about Thompson following UFC 143.
“You keep doing (expletive) like that, you’re going to be very marketable, and people are going to love to watch you fight.”
It’s hard to imagine a fighter with a 63-0 professional record between kickboxing and MMA still having an ounce of humility left, but that’s pretty much all Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson is made of. Hearing about Rogan’s compliments only made him throw some back at the Eddie Bravo trained grappler.
“It’s a tremendous feeling, especially someone like Joe Rogan, he’s the man. He’s out there commentating and he knows the game so well, he’s like a guru of the martial arts,” Thompson said about Rogan. “It’s really good for somebody like Joe Rogan or Dana White to talk about you, even though it was my first UFC fight. It gives me a tremendous amount of confidence and I’m ready for the next one whenever that is.”
One aspect that just about everyone was talking about after Thompson’s debut was his unique stance during his fight with Stittgen. Well, technically it was only unique to those not from a karate background.
See, Thompson learned karate almost as early as he learned how to read, and he’s carried his father’s martial art with him every step of the way. He now proudly displays it in the Octagon, and while he may not pull off a crane kick anytime soon, expect ‘Wonderboy’ to be a proud karate fighter for years to come.
“Karate’s what I started with from day one. It is my life,” said Thompson. “It’s good to see karate come back into the fight game. I’ve heard so many other MMA guys talk bad about karate, and how it shouldn’t be used in MMA.
“I mean look at Lyoto Machida, he’s at the top and he’s a karate guy. It’s really good to see karate get used in MMA. There’s a lot of things karate can help out with in MMA, especially with the movements, the awkward angles karate gives you, and it definitely helps out with your striking.”
Now with his initial UFC fight behind him and a ‘Knockout of the Night’ bonus in his pocket, Thompson isn’t slowing down. On Monday just after his fight, Thompson was already back in the gym teaching his students and getting back into his normal training regimen.
It might be hard for some fighters to top the kind of debut that Thompson had, but there’s a reason they call him ‘Wonderboy’. He’s already looking forward to the opportunity.
“It was my first fight and really whoever Dana White puts in front of me, I’m going to be ready for it. My ground game is getting better everyday, my wrestling is getting better everyday, and I’m just going to go back,” said Thompson.
“I’m not going to take a day off, I’ll be ready for whoever he puts in front of me.”