Stephen Thompson reportedly turned down a call-out by rising star Ian Garry recently, but he insists that he’s not ducking tough fights as he’s actually got his sights on fighting former welterweight champion Kamaru Usman instead.
“I told UFC, ‘Look, I’ll fight the JDMs (Jack Dell Maddalena’s). I will fight the Ian Garrys. Just give me a full training camp,’” Thompson said on his YouTube channel. “And then a few days later, lo and behold, Kamaru Usman calls me out? Let’s freaking go.
“I mean, I was willing to fight the JDMs, the Ian Garrys, the Shavkat (Rakhmonovs). But then you’ve got the guy, the No. 1 contender, the former UFC champ, one of the greatest fighters, calling me out. This was a guy I thought I would face one day and never did, and I think he was thinking the same thing. And I was just like, ‘Let’s make this fight happen. Are you kidding me?'”
“I’ve been fighting backwards since Tyron Woodley, apart from Gilbert Burns, to be honest with you,” Thompson continued. “I’ve been fighting back. I’ve been fighting those 13s – the Geoff Neals, the Vicente Luques, the Belal Muhammads. I tried to get that fight with Michel Pereira, who I think was 15 or 13 – I don’t remember – but giving these guys a shot.
“I want to show the UFC, and not just the UFC, but the fans, that I’m not a gatekeeper. I am not a gatekeeper. I’ve got a small window to kind of do what I want to do with the fight game. I’m 40 years old, and when I see a chance to go for another title shot before it’s over, when Kamaru Usman calls me out, I’m like – dude, no brainer. No brainer.”
At this stage the fight isn’t booked, but Thompson clearly is all-in on the idea, and believes it could even pave the way to a title shot at 170lbs.
“Leon Edwards,” Thompson said of his aspiration to fight the current welterweight champion. “When I beat Kamaru Usman, that’s my plan – that’s who I want.”