Not so long ago Stephen Thompson appeared to be disinterested in fighting Shavkat Rakhmonov, but now he appears to have had a change of heart after being drawn against him at UFC 296 in December.
“It was a year-and-a-half ago, maybe, I think, the UFC wanted me to fight Shavkat, and to be honest with you, I didn’t know who he was at the time,” Thompson said on The MMA Hour show. “I think he’s only had, like, five fights in the UFC. Obviously, I turned it down, I didn’t know who the guy was, and then after that I tuned in and saw him fight Neil Magny, saw him fight Geoff Neal, and I’m like, ‘Bro, this dude’s legit,’ and now he’s ranked above me. So anybody that’s ranked above me, I told the UFC I’m down for. This is the guy I think could possibly be welterweight champ at some point. He’s that good, undefeated, I think he has a 100 percent finish rate, so what better guy to go out there and show the world and the UFC that I deserve a title shot by fighting this guy?”
A former two-time welterewight title challenger, the 40-year-old Thompson is coming into the fight off a TKO victory against Kevin Holland late last year, which got him back to winning ways after having lost two fights in a row prior to that.
Meanwhile, the 28-year-old Rakhmonov is currently on a five-fight winning streak in the UFC that’s taken his undefeated record to 17-0 and seen him rise to No.6 in the rankings, one spot above Thompson.