It’s not very often that the first fight on a pay-per-view undercard gets a lot of attention, but that can’t be said for UFC 143: Diaz vs. Condit.
Why are people so interested in the first fight of the night that will air on Facebook only?
It’s because of the debut of former kickboxing sensation Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson, who faces Dan Stittgen to kick off the show on Saturday night.
Thompson is well known in the striking world after amassing an impressive 57-0 record with more than 40 knockouts to his credit, but to the MMA world he first popped up as a sparring partner for UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre.
The Canadian champion actually brought Thompson in to mimic his next opponent at the time, Carlos Condit, and according to St-Pierre’s testimony ‘Wonderboy’ served his purpose all too well.
Now with his own UFC shot just hours away, Thompson was legitimately surprised to hear about all the interest in his fight, but he’s happy to prove the fans right who wanted to see him perform in the Octagon.
“It definitely surprised me how many people contacted and messaged me, and were out there on the forums saying positive things. Yeah, I kind of used that as fuel to get ready, cause I don’t want to let those people down” Thompson told MMAWeekly Radio.
“I’m definitely training harder than ever. I’m going to show the world what I’m made of, and show that I should be in the UFC.”
In perfect fashion for his UFC debut that he took on short notice, Thompson actually got a switch of opponents only days after signing to the promotion. Original opponent Justin Edwards got injured and so Thompson found himself now facing fellow Octagon newcomer Dan Stittgen.
In all honestly, it didn’t make much of a difference for Thompson because he knows from the first time the referee says go, the strategy for most of his opponents is the same.
Get to the ground as fast as possible.
“We know Dan is going to be a jiu-jitsu guy, a wrestler guy and a majority of my fights want to get me on my back. So it’s kind of easy because my training camp hasn’t changed that much from when I was going to face Justin Edwards, because they were kind of similar. It keeps you on your toes though,” Thompson stated.
“That makes the strategy fairly easy because I know what they’re going to do every time. If I do come up to that guy who is going to stand and strike, well that’s what I want to do, I’m all for that. But it’s smart for those guys to try and shoot for my legs and in my training camp, I can train for the same thing. It does make it a little easier.”
To hear Thompson talk about his debut, there is a lift in his voice and almost always a smile on his face. He truly looks like a kid just getting ready to open presents on Christmas morning.
But don’t mistake his signature grin and happy demeanor for weakness in the cage. It’s much like Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic tale Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
While Thompson isn’t an evil entity devoid of emotion like the character in Stevenson’s book, he is a different kind of animal when the cage door closes and an opponent stands across from him. He unleashes his own special brand of violence and the end result is usually an opponent who never wants to see Thompson in the cage with them again.
“I’m always the nice guy. I always have a smile on my face, always talking to people. When I get in the cage, it’s a different story,” said Thompson.
“I may have a smile on my face, but if you’re standing in front of me, it’s going to be rough. I’m going to make you work for it.”