Heading into tonight’s UFC 209 rematch for the UFC welterweight championship, Tyron “The Chosen One” Woodley and Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson have completely different mindsets.
The champion, Woodley, is anxious to move onto bigger fights and potentially have cross-weight-class battles at 185 pounds or facing the lightweight champion of the world, Conor McGregor, when he returns from a hiatus, while Thompson is soaking up the fight-week atmosphere.
“To be honest, I’m having a blast with this,” Thompson said. “I don’t know if he is. From the sounds of it, he doesn’t seem like he is, but I’m having a good time, man. This is why we do what we do, man, for this kind of rivalry, for this kind of hype.
“Some people, they get into it a little more. They have to hate the guy, dislike the guy or not respect the guy before they walk out there. I’m not saying he doesn’t respect me, but they’ve just got to do that to pump themselves up before the fight. I’m just not that guy. I’m blessed to be here. I’m here to have fun, man. That’s it.”
Known for his unique angles of attack and blend of karate, Thompson rose through the UFC ranks with eight wins in his first nine fights, including five victories by technical knockout or knockout in five of those outings.
However, against Woodley, Thompson appeared tentative and struggled to land punches and kicks in bunches. Thompson connected on just 60 of his 181 strikes, and did not have a knockdown, takedown or submission attempt, according to FightMetric.
In regrouping for the rematch, Thompson has seen quite a difference in Woodley, who has been outspoken about the UFC’s treatment of fighters of color and their promotion of upcoming bouts.
“It seems like, to me, that he’s more stressed out than I am,” Thompson said. “He’s a little disappointed in the decision and how everything was going. I knew after our last fight, he was talking about fighting other people, Conor McGregor, (Georges) St-Pierre, even going up a weight class and fighting (Michael) Bisping, but I’m like, ‘Wait a second! We just tied.’
“For me, if I was a champion, I couldn’t let that down. I could not move on from that. I wouldn’t feel like I was champion. When you tie, you always run it back, so I had to poke at him a little bit on social media to get him to do it. I think he said he was actually going to do it just to hype it up a little.”
Regardless of the fact that Woodley wants to move on from Thompson, the top contender for his title wants the champion at his best come fight time.
“With all of the stuff that’s been going on, all the stuff that he’s been talking about on social media, I just hope that his mind’s right for Saturday,” Thompson said. “I want to fight the best. I know that things have been brought up in his conversations. I just hope he’s mainly focused on the fight. That way, I am facing the best Tyron Woodley come Saturday.”