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CHICAGO – Stephen Thompson can’t wait to get back into the octagon again, but he says making sure he’s back to 100 percent before he does.
“Wonderboy” Thompson (14-4-1 MMA, 9-4-1 UFC) was knocked out in the second round by Anthony Pettis (22-8 MMA, 9-7 UFC) at UFC Nashville in March and was handed a mandatory 60-day suspension by commission officials following the event.
The layoff, which included 30 days without contact, has meant he has been unable to return to training in time to compete in his home event when the UFC lands in Greenville, S.C., on June 22.
While he admits he’s gutted to be missing out on his local event, Thompson says he’s doing all the right things to ensure that when he returns to action, he will do so at his very best.
“I really wanted to be on that South Carolina card, obviously,” he told reporters backstage at UFC 238 in Chicago on Saturday. “Me and my dad worked really hard to get them to come to my home town. But the Nashville fight didn’t go the way I wanted it to, and (I) got put out. So we’re looking at, probably, fall.”
Thompson already has scanned the list of upcoming shows and circled his preferred comeback date: the UFC’s Nov. 2 return to Madison Square Garden in New York for UFC 244.
“I would love to get on that Madison Square Garden card – that would be awesome,” Thompson said. “That’s kind of like my home away from home, anyway.”
The decision to give himself more time off to fully recover stems from seeing what has happened to other fighters who have attempted to bounce straight back after knockout losses and been stopped quickly upon their return.
“(I’ve been) given the summer off just to get my brain a little healed up and the body to heal up, as well,” he said. “I’ve known a lot of guys to get knocked out and try and jump back out there, which is what I wanted to do, and barely get clipped and (are) not the same anymore.
“So I just want to make sure (my brain) is all right before I step back out there.”
And when he does step back into the octagon, “Wonderboy” says he doesn’t want to come back to a tune-up fight. He wants top-five opposition.
“I was actually wanting somebody, anybody, in the top five, to be honest with you,” he said. “(Rafael dos Anjos), (Santiago) Ponzinibbio, I don’t know if (Darren) Till has anything coming up. Anybody in that top group would be awesome. But we’ll see what happens.
“I’m back into training, by the way. I’m not doing any heavy lifting or heavy sparring or anything, but doing mostly skills and stuff. But, man, I’m itching to bits to step back out there and do it again. I don’t care who it’s with.”
For more on the UFC’s upcoming schedule, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.
News | MMA Junkie