Stephen Thompson plans to strike after being talked down to wrestling: ‘I want to be as exciting as possible’

Stephen Thompson is still rounding out his MMA game, but don’t expect the karate specialist to shoot for many takedowns this weekend. Thompson takes on Kevin Holland in the main event of UFC Fight Night on Saturday in hopes of presenting a delicious knockout encounter for fighters, fans and – interestingly – UFC management.

Thompson returned to the welterweight title picture after a fight of the night against brawler Vicente Luque and a performance of the night victory over heavy-handed Geoff Neal. His momentum was snuffed out by jiu-jitsu ace Gilbert Burns and overwhelming wrestler Belal Muhammad. Drawing Holland’s name was a relief for Thompson despite having a ranked number missing from his name.

“What always goes through my mind is that I want to be as exciting as possible,” Thompson told CBS Sports when promoting his FightCamp online boxing program. “I want to put on a show for the fans and the UFC. When I have someone like Belal or even Gilbert Burns, it’s not exciting for me because I just feel like it would be a fight boring. He’s just the guy pulling on your legs all the time and just trying to control you on the ground. It’s not much fun.

“But when you have guys like Vicente Luque or Geoff Neal or Jorge Masvidal who are really going to fight – and of course Kevin Holland – that makes me smile. I think that’s really exciting for me. Not just for me, but for people watching.

Check out the full interview with Stephen Thompson below.

Thompson’s reputation as a top karate fighter capable of delivering knockouts and spinning kicks is what got him into dancing. The amateur karate champion made his UFC debut with a highlight headbutt. A subsequent loss to Matt Brown, who notched five takedowns and compiled more than eight minutes of control time, left Thompson to complete his game for MMA. A fight-heavy decision victory over Nah-Shon Burrell was validation of his overall improvements, but would have been avoided by UFC brass.

“I think it was after my third fight in the UFC. I beat my opponent,” Thompson said. “It wasn’t the most exciting fight, but I remember afterwards someone at the UFC came up to me and said, ‘Wonderboy,’ it’s not your fight that’s going to hurt you. ‘brought here.” So I’m like, ‘Okay, period. I take back what you write.’ But that’s what the fans want to see and that’s what I’m known for, my hitting.”

Thompson seems to have taken that feedback to heart. He’s shot for the odd knockout here or there but has only completed five knockouts in 18 UFC fights, most recently against Jake Ellenberger in 2015. A win over Holland on Saturday probably won’t lift him up the rankings but should stabilize it. at No. 6 in the welterweight division as he seeks to re-enter the title picture.

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