It’s very obvious Stephen Thompson is the No. 1 welterweight contender in the UFC. But is that enough to actually get him a title shot?
Welterweight rankings: Woodley moves up, Thompson takes top spot
With his impressive victory over Robbie Lawler on Saturday, newly crowned UFC welterweight champion Tyron Woodley made a move in ESPN’s welterweight rankings.
Did Diaz just get a title shot?
Although Nick Diaz didn’t fight at UFC 201, is winless since 2011 and just ended an 18-month suspension for a failed drug test, he could get a title fight with welterweight champ Tyron Woodley.
Nick Diaz back from ban, says he’s ‘guy to beat’
After completing his 18-month suspension, Nick Diaz said he’s still the top welterweight in UFC and he’s in no rush to accept a fight against titleholder Tyron Woodley.
Heading into last week’s championship fight between Robbie Lawler and Tyron Woodley in Atlanta, Thompson (13-1) was certain he’d get the winner. Thompson has won seven in a row, including victories against Johny Hendricks and Rory MacDonald this year.
Woodley (16-3), however, had other ideas. After knocking out Lawler in the first round to become the new 170-pound champion, Woodley called for a “money fight” against former champion Georges St-Pierre or Nick Diaz. St-Pierre is retired, but has hinted at a comeback. Diaz came off an 18-month suspension on Aug. 1.
Thompson, who fights out of Simpsonville, South Carolina, recently spoke to ESPN.com about the fluid welterweight title picture.
What’s the latest? Have you directly been in contact with the UFC at all?
Right now, I’m kind of in the dark. My management company is trying to get the kinks worked out. I’m just doing what I’m supposed to be doing, posting stuff on social media, trying to get Tyron to take this fight. I was fairly disappointed last weekend. I had him on a live television interview and said, ‘Hey man, let’s make this happen.’ He goes, ‘Nope, I’m looking for money fights.’ In the back of my head I’m thinking, ‘Wait, you’ve had that belt around your waist for literally 30 seconds and you’re asking for a money fight?’ Come on. The champion is supposed to fight the No. 1 contender. You have to defend that thing a few times before you start calling your shots.
With what you’ve done this year, wins over Hendricks and MacDonald, did you ever think you’d still have to sort of ‘hype’ your way into a title shot?
Not at all, man. Basically, you’re getting guys who want to call their shot and it becomes: Is the UFC going to let this keep happening? That’s the question. The UFC knows what’s right. Tyron knows what’s right — to give me the shot. I’ve earned it. I’ve cleaned out the division for him.
A big key in this seems to be whether or not St-Pierre comes out of retirement. You’ve trained with him in the past. Do you believe he’s coming back?
You know, I do. At first it was just rumors, but I do think he’s coming back. I still think it’s fairly far away. I know they’ve got negotiations to go through, and the UFC has the Reebok deal now, and he’s sponsored by Under Armour. I don’t know how they’re going to work all that out, but I do believe he wants to come back — maybe for a super fight. I’ve seen a lot of retired guys in the past itching to come back because nothing else out there comes close to the feeling of stepping into the Octagon and going to battle with somebody. Guys who retire want that glory again, and I think he will get out there and do it again.
Since you know St-Pierre, you ever consider, even for a minute, calling him up and basically saying, ‘Dude, this is my fight.’
The last time I talked to him, I actually tried to get him down to South Carolina before I fought Johny Hendricks. He was busy helping some of his guys and couldn’t make it. I do have his number, but you know what … I shouldn’t have to do that. You know what I mean? I’m anxious to see how it all goes, but I just don’t feel like I want to be that guy who goes out and says, ‘Hey man, don’t take my shot away from me.’ It just feels — it feels weird having to tell somebody that.
If you’re able to remove yourself from the situation and look at it objectively, can you see why Woodley would ask for these ‘money fights?’
You know, I got into this game because I love to fight and I love to fight the best. If it was me in his shoes, I just wouldn’t feel right asking for a money fight yet. I’d feel like I didn’t deserve it when I just got the title. After defending it a few times, maybe, yeah. I was actually kind of surprised Robbie never asked for a money fight. But I’ve got guys in my gym, one of them being my dad, who would smack me around if I ever did something like that. Defend the title a few times. Make it yours. Prove to everyone you didn’t win that fight with a lucky punch. I’m not saying Tyron landed a lucky punch, but I’m saying that’s probably what some people are thinking right now.
I know you don’t even want to think this way, but if Woodley fights someone like St-Pierre, what does that mean for you? Do you wait and hope for the winner of that fight?
I wouldn’t be disappointed in Georges if that’s what happens. I’d be disappointed in the UFC, for not doing the right thing. Demian Maia and Carlos Condit are fighting on Aug. 27. Who do I fight? Do I fight No. 5 or No. 6? It just doesn’t make sense for me at this point. If they skip over me, then dang — give me a money fight, you know?
You’ve said you don’t think Woodley is afraid of you, but why do you believe you’re a bad matchup for him?
It’s just the movement. A lot of the guys he’s fought, he lands that big right hand because guys stand in front of him. You saw what Rory MacDonald did to him (unanimous decision win in 2014) — he ate him apart with the jab. With a guy like me, I know he’s going to look to take me down and that’s something I’ve been preparing for since I got in this game. I know he’s very athletic and explosive, but it’s a bad matchup because I’m not going to stand in front of him. I’m going to hit and move, frustrate him, tire him out. If Rory can do it, I can definitely do it.