Stephen Thompson’s impressive unanimous decision win over Vicente Luque at UFC 244 on Saturday night was a big one for many reasons.
It erased question marks about Thompson’s chin, especially coming off his first-ever professional knockout defeat at the hands of Anthony Pettis earlier this year. It now puts him back on track for his title aspirations after putting in a vintage performance against someone of Luque’s caliber who had won six in a row.
And finally, it got him back on the win column after going on the first losing streak of his career, having previously lost his last two outings.
In fact, “Wonderboy” had only officially won once in his last five fights — though in fairness, there were some razor-thin decisions that he maybe should have won along the way.
And while he would be unlikely to get cut from the promotion, a third consecutive loss would not have been ideal. That is why he believes his UFC future was riding on this result.
“I would say a lot [was riding on the fight],” Thompson said at the post-fight press conference. “After a third loss, it wouldn’t be pretty good especially in the UFC’s eyes. I’ve seen guys get booted out with less than that. So all of that stuff is going through your head. But for me, that shouldn’t be in my head. Every time that would pop in my head, I would fill it with something positive. ‘I’m going to go out there and win this thing. I’m going to end this fight with my hand raised.’
“… Actually, walking out, there’s so much stuff that pops in your head. ‘You’re going to die!’ When you walk out, you realize later what you’re thinking. I’m wishing an asteroid comes down and blows the place up so I don’t have to fight. It’s crazy. I’ve got close to almost 80 fights and every time I step out there, it’s the same. But I think when that goes away, maybe I need to hang it up. Those nerves definitely help you when you’re out there. But I try and fill those negative thoughts with something positive for sure.”
That said, even if he did end up losing three in a row, Thompson was not going to consider retirement.
At the age of 37 (though he looks deceptively younger), the South Carolina native takes inspiration from former heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier who continues to perform at the highest level even after entering his forties.
“No, not at all,” Thompson responded with a smile when asked if another loss could have meant this was his last fight. “Like I said, I’m 37. You got guys fighting till they’re 41! DC. I thought he looked — his last fight, the one he lost — better than his last three fights. He looked amazing. Just got caught. I’ve been there before.
“I keep my body healthy, I train on a daily basis. We don’t beat each other up in the gym. We train smart. My dad has been training guys since the seventies and eighties. We listen to him and he knows how to train fighters — that’s how we do it.”