One of the United Kingdom’s preeminent big show veterans, Oli Thompson, returns to action this Saturday as he flies to the Middle East to take on Cage Rage alum, Roman Wehbe, at Abu Dhabi Warriors 5.
Through a distinguished career, Thompson has managed to fight for some of the globe’s most well-regarded promotions, with varying degrees of success. After stints in the UFC, KSW, Bellator, BAMMA, IGF and ROAD FC, Thompson finds himself main eventing at Abu Dhabi Warriors’ first event since 2016.
Racking up an impressive 6-2 record since 2015, Thompson won the inaugural IGF Open Weight Grand Prix of that year, picking up consecutive wins over Ikuhisa Minowa, Chris Barnett, and Fernando Rodrigues Jr, the latter aging well as Rodrigues Jr would later go on to win the KSW heavyweight title. A couple of well-contested losses against Matt Mitrione and a resurgent Cheick Kongo in a frustrating Bellator stint saw him attempt to return to regional action with Fight Nights Global. That deal ultimately hit a snag after FNG’s main investor was arrested on charges of embezzlement, capping off what had become a disheartening bout of inactivity, as Thompson noted, “2018 was another frustrating year as far as MMA goes. It started well signing a multi-fight deal with FNG [Fight Nights Global], but unfortunately, they had problems soon after. With me cutting weight and a few delays, I had to make a tough choice and asked for my release.”
After Thompson left FNG he signed up to a familiar opportunity, one he’d had success in before with IGF: an open weight grand prix. This time with South Korean outfit, ROAD FC. ROAD had already gotten a lightweight grand prix underway with a hefty $1 million prize for the winner. While nothing was officially announced, the same prize money was assumed for the open weight grand prix.
Thompson progressed in his opening round fight, stopping Chaolong Deng with a crushing knee to the midsection, while the other brackets saw Gilbert Yvel, Chris Barnett and Aoerigele advance. That was May 2018, and unfortunately, the same inactivity issues that had plagued Thompson’s MMA career for the previous couple of years once again reared their ugly head.
“After winning my first round fight I have been waiting for news on the semi-finals,” said Thompson. “After two wasted years with Bellator, it’s not what I needed at all.”
Thompson really enjoyed his time in South Korea, though, but is seeking some clarity on whether the grand prix is proceeding.
“The ROAD situation has been frustrating. It would be great to have an idea of when we will be out again. Having said that I have full faith in them and expect the finals to be announced soon and it to be a great spectacle! I enjoyed working with them a lot.”
The remainder of 2018 saw Thompson forced to seek opportunities outside of MMA. He competed for kickboxing promotion, MAS Fight, in China, after taking a local K-1 fight, “to keep me motivated and in the gym.”
Heading into 2019 there’s a renewed enthusiasm that he’ll be able to stay active, and Abu Dhabi Warriors has provided an opportunity early in the year to help Thompson in his goal of trying to reach an acceptable number of fights for the year.
“My best year was 2015, as I had five MMA fights. It brings out the best in me staying active, fighting regularly. So 2019 I’m looking for four or five MMA fights at heavyweight, or light heavyweight for the right challenge.”
First up is Cage Rage stalwart, Roman Wehbe, who’s fought a slew of notable UK circuit veterans in Mark Epstein, Przemysław Mysiala and James McSweeney. Thompson made sure to do his homework on Wehbe as well.
“My opponent in Abu Dhabi Warriors is Roman Wehbe, I’ve watched a few of his fights and also recollect a few old Cage Rage fights I saw long ago. [Regarding the fight] I hold advantages all over, to be honest, but I’m sure he will be eager to impress in his biggest fight to date.”
That fight is slated for the main event spot on Saturday, January 26 at the Mubadala Arena in Abu Dhabi, UAE.
Interestingly enough a fellow Brit fills one of the co-main event spots, too. Former ONE Championship and Glory fighter, Chi Lewis-Parry looks to pick up his first win in MMA since 2014. If both fighters win, don’t be expecting a showdown anytime soon, though, as Thompson notes, they’re good friends.
“Yes, Chi is also on the card. We’re pals and our paths and situations are very different so we will just continue helping each other when we can. We live in the same town these days, so it makes a lot of sense.”
Thompson has been pleased with his treatment from Abu Dhabi Warriors so far. “ADW have been really easy to deal with, no issues at all and I’d be happy to come back a few times this year,” said Thompson.
Prior to being booked at Abu Dhabi Warriors 5, Thompson was offered a big name fight in Poland with well-regarded, fledgling promotion, Babilon MMA. They were eyeing Thompson as an opponent for former KSW heavyweight champion, Marcin Rozalski, but after Thompson accepted the fight Rozalski appeared to renege on the deal.
“Babilon basically sent me an email with an offer for the fight. Within a matter of hours my agent, Damir Mujkic, had finalized the deal and we were very happy. Marcin apparently had a small injury and would confirm as soon as possible,” said Thompson.
“The next day I chased the promotion for the paperwork and was told Marcin wasn’t able to fight in January. I was happy to agree to the deal for when he was fit, but soon after he was announced for January with a different opponent [a bout with Lukasz Brzeski ultimately fizzled out]. It was very strange that it was all done and agreed then he had a change of heart. Not the best way to handle things professionally, but I left things with Babilon on good terms. Perhaps Marcin has had a change of heart and now has the courage to accept this proposal… as I did within five minutes.”
After his bout Abu Dhabi Warriors, Thompson is leaving himself open to many options given the uncertainty with ROAD FC. He was recently offered a spot on an upcoming ACA card, but had just signed his bout agreement for ADW at the time. Thompson explained that he is definitely open to fighting in Russia ‘sometime this year’.
Thompson is also booked for a bare-knuckle fight on March 30, in London, England. Two fights in the first three months is a great start to kick Thompson’s year off, and surely marks the start of a good run of activity for the big Brit in 2019.
You can watch Abu Dhabi Warriors 5 on Saturday 26 January, via Fite TV.