Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson will be the first to admit he didn’t have a lot of interest in facing Darren Till when the UFC first came calling with the matchup.
At the time, Thompson was holding out hope for a showdown with former lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos and honestly didn’t know anything about Till outside of his first round knockout against Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone.
While that win put Till into the top 10 rankings, he was still a relative unknown by comparison to Thompson, whose resume reads like a who’s who list of former champions and top contenders in the UFC.
Sadly, Thompson didn’t get the fight with dos Anjos so when the UFC came back around with Till as an opponent yet again, he accepted with a new goal on his mind.
See Thompson knows that Till is being promoted as ‘the next big thing’ so a lot of the buildup for their fight has been tailored to the native of Liverpool, England. That only adds fuel to the fire as Thompson looks to remind the world — and Darren Till — that he is the No. 1 ranked contender in the UFC welterweight division.
“That’s what I’m out there to prove to the fans and everybody around the world. There are levels to this,” Thompson told MMAWeekly. “I’m going to go out there and I’m going to do work. You’re going to see the level of that No. 1 and No. 8. UFC’s giving him a chance so I know he’s going to be coming prepared. Anybody in the UFC has a chance to knock you out. So I’m not going to take this guy lightly.
“I’m going to prove to everybody this is why I’m No. 1 and there are levels to this game.”
Till has gone undefeated in the UFC, although he’s only faced one ranked opponent thus far in his career inside the Octagon. That being said, Thompson sees a lot of potential in the body of work he’s witnessed in preparation to face Till this weekend.
“Very strong welterweight. Good striking, heavy left hand, mostly throws his left leg but it’s a heavy kick. He’s got great timing, too. After watching him fight, it’s going to be fun,” Thompson said about Till.
On paper, the matchup between “Wonderboy” and Till appears to pit striker against striker with both fighters touting impressive knockouts on their resume.
The difference is Thompson’s biggest knockouts have come against names such as Robert Whittaker and Johny Hendricks. That’s why for all of Till’s bluster leading into their fight, Thompson isn’t actually convinced that this will play out as the stand up war everybody is expecting.
“I know that pretty much everybody I face is going to wind up wanting to take me down eventually,” Thompson said. “I know in some of Till’s earlier fights, he has tried to take people down. I know he prefers to stand up, which is something I want to do.
“He wants to prove he’s the better striker than me and that puts a smile on my face. I hope that’s his plan.”