UFC welterweight contender Stephen Thompson (#6) may be on a two-fight losing streak, but the two-time title challenger has responded to speculation that he’ll soon retire – so long as his body holds up – with his father the only man who can influence his decision to call it a day.
Thompson pushes back against retirement talk
Thompson, 39, has been competing in combat sports for almost all his life and as an well-esteemed kickboxer, Wonderboy’s seamless transition to MMA caught many by surprise.
Despite being outgrappled into submission by Gilbert Burns and most recently Belal Muhammad, Thompson remains a top contender in the 170lb rankings and points to his one stoppage defeat as a positive reason why he’s managed to sustain longetivity in a brutal sport.
He told CBS Sports (h/t: mmajunkie):
“I think that’s No. 1, how my body is feeling.
I don’t take a lot of punishment, been knocked out one time in my entire fight career with kickboxing and MMA combined. I remember after that, people were already saying, ‘You need to retire.’ I’m like what? If I’m getting knocked out consistently then we’ll think about it.
As long as I’m feeling healthy and not taking too much punishment, I’m going to continue to do what I do and listen to my coach – my dad has been a part of my camp since Day 1, he probably knows me more than I know myself. So when he says I’m done, I’m done.”
Holland hoping to display skills in surprising showcase
After being blitzed inside half-a-round against Khamzat Chimaev at a manic UFC 279 where his original opponent was rearranged to accomodate the Swede’s egregious weight miss, Kevin Holland looks to cap an eventful 2022 with a victory that would only boost his busy resume.
After second-round finishes against Alex Oliveira and Tim Means, the Trailblazer was set to face Daniel Rodriguez on Sept. 10 – only for the aforementioned to transpire during the latter stages of said fight week. Holland, ever the improvisationalist, offered to step in as fights were juggled.
Rodriguez beat Li Jingliang via split decision that night, and retained his top-15 ranking at 170lbs despite suffering a third-round submission defeat by Neil Magny on November 5.
Holland, as hinted at by Daniel Cormier in mid-October, has been indirectly rewarded for his short-notice gamble against a bigger name opponent than anyone Rodriguez has fought in his nine-fight UFC stint to date. Unsurprisingly, he wants to have fun despite the opposition.
“It’s a real technical standup fight, and you have to implement certain things to have your way with Wonderboy. I plan on showing that I can strike with the best of them – a very, very fun matchup.
Talk about a guy that’s fought for a world title, fought some of the best out there at the top of the weight class for a long time. If you do want a number next to your name, you have to go through somebody like that.
He’s lost to people who grappled the whole time, unless you’re Anthony Pettis, people who strike with him don’t have a good night. I think I’m just as creative as Anthony, but against WB there’s only one way to go, and that’s forward.”
UFC Orlando card, is as follows
Main card (3am Sunday, BST)
Welterweight: Stephen Thompson  vs. Kevin Holland
Welterweight: Bryan Barberena vs. Rafael dos Anjos [7 LW]
Flyweight: Matheus Nicolau  vs. Matt Schnell 
Heavyweight: Tai Tuivasa  vs. Sergei Pavlovich 
Middleweight: Jack Hermansson  vs. Roman Dolidze
Middleweight: Eryk Anders vs. Kyle Daukaus
Heavily-anticipated flyweight matchup: Tracy Cortez  vs. Amanda Ribas  was called off after weigh-ins, as Cortez had an undisclosed medical issue deeming her unable to fight.
Prelims (Midnight Saturday-into-Sunday BST)
Catchweight (173.5lbs): Niko Price vs. Philip Rowe
Women’s Strawweight: Angela Hill  vs. Emily Ducote 
Lightweight: Clay Guida vs. Scott Holtzman
Lightweight: Michael Johnson vs. Marc Diakiese
Featherweight: Darren Elkins vs. Jonathan Pearce
Lightweight: Natan Levy vs. Genaro Valdez
Featherweight: Marcelo Rojo vs. Francis Marshall
Women’s Strawweight: Yazmin Jauregui vs. Istela Nunes
Picture source: Getty Images