EXCLUSIVE | Stephen Thompson plans to use more wrestling, BJJ as he works his way back to title contention

Stephen Thompson

Stephen Thompson has long stood out as one of the UFC’s premier welterweights. That being said, he’s failed to claim the divisional title in his two previous title shots, and at 35 years old, would seem to be running a little short on time in his hunt for UFC gold.

Well, he doesn’t see it that way.

Speaking on episode 100 of BJPENN.COM, Stephen Thompson reminded that age is just a number, and assured that he’s still got plenty of good years left in him.

“I’m not giving up on it,” Thompson said of his welterweight title dreams. “I’ll be 36 in February, but man, I got a long road ahead of me, my friend. I consider myself a young 35-year-old, so I’m getting better every day still, still improving, so I’m not giving up on it.”

While Stephen Thompson is confident that he’s got plenty of time left as a top welterweight, he knows the road ahead is fraught with danger. The UFC welterweight division is arguably better than it’s ever been at present, meaning that there are truly no easy fights in the division.

“There’s a lot of really tough opponents coming up, and in the top five, you know?” Thompson said. “I’m ranked number four. You got [Rafael dos Anjos], you got Colby Covington, you got the champ [Tyron Woodley], you got [Kamaru] Usman coming up, I think, to fight RDA.”

“You’ve got some killers in this division, man,” he continued. “And you cannot, you can’t underestimate anybody. Anybody. I don’t care if he’s the lowest guy in the rankings. Anybody’s got the potential to put you away. So when you look at that top five, that top ten, it’s like, ‘Wow.'”

In order to successfully navigate the perilous UFC welterweight division, Stephen Thompson believes it might be time to make some small adjustments to his game. He has long been known as one of the welterweight division’s best strikers, and though his world-class striking has served him very well so far, he’s worried his peers might be getting wise to his tricks. As such, he plans to lean on his wrestling and jiu jitsu a little more going forward.

“You gotta realize what kind of specimens that are standing across the Octagon [that] I’m trying to knock out,” he said. “Like every inch, every little detail, every little moment in that Octagon, it matters. Either for the good or for the worse. But yeah, I think I’m not using the rest of my jiu-jitsu and my wrestling [enough], 100%.”

“I’m kinda feeling comfortable out there just striking,” he continued. “But in order for me to get back up top, in order for me to keep moving forward, I’m gonna have to mix it up. People are starting to understand, ‘hey, this guy’s just gonna stand and bang with me, and if I can make it close, I can possibly win this fight.’ So I’ve gotta put another element out there. I gotta. I did that [in] my third fight in the UFC. I used a lot of my wrestling against Chris Clements, and I’ve just kind of gotten away from that. So I want to show not just the UFC but the fans that I have stuff other than my striking. And not only that; the guys that I face from now on are gonna have to worry about that. They’re gonna have to factor that in their game plan, you know? This guy, he can take me down. He can submit me, or he’s better than just what we’re seeing right now.”

If Stephen Thompson continues to improve as planned, do you think there’s a welterweight title win in his future?

This article first appeared on BJPENN.COM on 10/10/2018.