A lot of competitors in the world of MMA believe they were destined to be fighters from a very young age. But not very many started living that dream at 12 years of age.
That’s how early South Carolina native Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson started fighting in full-contact kickboxing tournaments.
Growing up in a household where martial arts was king, Thompson, along with his two brothers and two sisters, was instructed by their father starting as young as three years old to learn karate.
From there, Thompson’s love of striking took to new heights. At 12 years of age, he was entering kickboxing tournaments, while his friends were going on their first dates or trying out for the junior high football team.
Somehow he always knew he was going to be a professional fighter, even before he knew how to drive a car.
“I remember growing up, all my friends are like, ‘why don’t you play football or come and wrestle for Hillcrest,’ which is the high school I went to, and I’m like no I’m busy doing my thing kicking butt,” Thompson told MMAWeekly Radio recently.
Training and learning martial arts was a way of life for the Thompson family, but it was also a way to learn discipline. Unlike many trouble makers in school, Thompson definitely had a background that could have led him into fights and violence while inside or outside of class, but a very stern warning from his dad let him know that martial arts was to be respected, not feared.
At the same time, however, Thompson learned how martial arts meant defending yourself if the right moment called for it.
“My dad always told me you never start a fight. If I hear you start a fight, I’m beating your butt when you get home,” said Thompson. “But if somebody ever starts a fight with you and you don’t finish it, I’m beating your butt when you get home.”
Thompson grew up in a loving household like any kid his age. The only difference was when other parents were talking about proms and high school football games, the Thompsons were talking about fighting.
“Our entire family, that’s what we talked about at the kitchen table, we talked about the fight game,” Thompson revealed. “Who’s fighting tonight? Who’s fighting this weekend? When I was younger it was either kickboxing or it was boxing, and that’s what we did on the weekends as a family. We’d watch fights together. Growing up that was just our lifestyle.”
Thompson grew up idolizing famous kickboxers like Rick Roufus, but mostly idolized his own father, who was a professional martial artist in his own right. He also looked up to his older sister Lindsay, who was actually a professional kickboxer as well, and the stage was set for Thompson to carry on the family tradition.
Once Thompson started kickboxing, he didn’t stop until he had amassed a 57-0 record with more than 40 knockouts. He was one of the fastest rising stars in the sport, and even earned a spot in Chuck Norris’ World Combat League, where he would fight alongside several other top fighters including future UFC heavyweight Pat Barry.
It was there that Thompson actually suffered a devastating knee injury, literally shredding his ligaments and landing him on the sidelines for three years. During that time, however, Thompson had a revelation that if he wanted to continue on as a professional fighter, he needed to make the move to the quick-rising sport of MMA.
“I had one kickboxing fight coming out of that injury, but from then on I told myself that it was going to be nothing but MMA from here on,” Thompson said.
It was fate however that intervened to help Thompson make his mark on MMA as a training partner for one of the best fighters in the sport.
Thompson had traveled to Montreal for a kickboxing match where he took on a local fighter who happened to be a training partner of UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre. St-Pierre’s trainer, Firas Zahabi, happened to be in his corner and after Thompson knocked out their protégé in the fourth round, they realized that there was something special about this kid from America.
Zahabi stayed in contact with Thompson’s father after the fight and then soon invited him to come train with the team at the Tristar Gym. Thompson was so effective that he was soon receiving calls to help fighters like Rashad Evans and Nate Marquardt get ready for their fights as well.
It took a while for it to sink in, but Thompson soon realized that he was training and working with some of the elite fighters in the sport, and they were seeking him out for his help.
“It’s just an honor. It’s an honor to go up there and train with those guys. It’s the best feeling in the world,” Thompson stated.
Now with a 5-0 professional MMA record of his own, Thompson just got the call again to help St-Pierre with his latest endeavor. GSP will face Carlos Condit on Oct. 29 at UFC 137, and as everyone knows Condit is a dangerous striker with knockout power in both hands, both feet, knees and elbows.
Something Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson knows all too well.
“That’s a good thing. Cause I’ve been doing stand-up for many years, and I can watch people and kind of see how their stand-up is, and kind of simulate how they’re going to fight. I would think for this fight for Georges, I would guess I would kind of have to be. Condit’s very tall and lanky for 170, very good striker, and that’s just like me,” Thompson said.
Thompson left for Montreal just a few days ago and will spend about 12 days working with St-Pierre as he gets ready for Condit. Ultimately, he may just be the secret weapon that the Canadian needs to truly know what’s coming for him when he faces the experienced striker from New Mexico with the UFC welterweight title on the line.
While Thompson loves being an integral part of St-Pierre’s camp, he also knows he’s getting better every day working with one of the top fighters in the sport. With that said, Thompson is willing to take things slow and easy to make sure he makes the right decisions with his own fight career.
“We’re always thinking about that and we don’t want to rush into it. I want to make sure that I’m definitely ready,” Thompson said.
Currently, Thompson is negotiating with British promotion BAMMA to appear on their upcoming card Dec. 10 in England. He’s hopeful to land a multi-fight deal with the organization, get some experience under his belt, and then he’s hopeful to one day receive the call every fighter longs for.
“After that, if I feel comfortable, then we’re going to make that jump to the UFC,” said Thompson. “That’s definitely where my mind is set, where I want to go in the future. That’s where the big guns are, that’s where everyone wants to be.”
With a track record and work ethic like he has, don’t be surprised if Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson is gracing the UFC Octagon in the very near future.