A lifelong martial artist, Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson has fighting in his blood. The 28-year-old Simpsonville, SC native has been under the tutelage of his father Ray since he was just three years old. The senior Thompson owns, operates and instructs at the family owned Upstate Karate dojo which also houses Pitchblack MMA. Having basically grown up inside of the gym, it was very clear early on that Thompson possessed a very special set of skills and was going to be very athletic.
The younger Thompson takes a great deal of pride in teaching the younger generation the intricacies of the martial arts as he is also an instructor. He’s a fine role model for the kids he teaches as he is a throwback, he believes in the true meaning of the martial arts. His principles go far beyond kicking, punching and grappling, he teaches them that martial arts is a lifestyle and helps to build confidence. Thompson also volunteers his time reading to children and teaching them the importance of living a clean, healthy lifestyle. If that isn’t enough he spends time teaching martial arts to the elderly when he visits them in their nursing homes.
If anyone wants to question his credentials one needs to look no further than his incredible 57-0 record in kickboxing. He has amassed an astounding thirteen titles throughout his career and has started his MMA voyage with a 5-0 record. While striking is obviously his strong suit, opponents should not sleep on his ground game as he is trained by his brother-in-law Carlos Machado. A cousin of Carlos Gracie Jr., Machado has also trained with Helio, Carlson, Rolls, Rickson and other members of the famed Gracie clan.
Getting the call to the UFC has been a lifelong dream of Thompson’s and this Saturday night he has the opportunity to showcase the skills that many of today’s top MMA stars have been lauding about for some time now. The journey has been a long, arduous trip, a serious knee injury kept him out of action for nearly three years. That’s all in the past now and Thompson is ready to show the world that the hard work he and his family have put in honing his skills has all been worth it.
“Growing up we never really had time for any other sports,” explained Thompson in an exclusive interview with Five Ounces of Pain. “We basically lived and breathed the martial arts. We were always entering in Karate tournaments, grappling tournaments and that’s continued over the last 25 years. Being trained by family helps keep me grounded and I love it, but I also get a lot of opportunities to travel. I’ve traveled to Tri-Star and trained with Georges St. Pierre; I’ve been to Jackson’s in New Mexico and Los Angeles to train with Lyoto Machida and Anderson Silva. I’ve had some great opportunities to train with some of the best fighters in the world.”
There is a reason why all of these top mixed martial artists call upon Thompson to come and train with them. Besides the fact that his striking is world class he is humble, respectful and very loyal. You will never hear anyone utter a bad word about this man, in fact GSP and his head coach Firas Zahabi said in an interview that Thompson has the best striking in all of combat sports and is without a doubt a future world champion. That kind of praise could cause some to have an inflated ego, but that’s not the case with Thompson.
“Hearing that really feels great,” said an excited and proud Wonderboy. “Whenever the opportunity arises to train with those guys it’s an honor and to get that kind of praise from them is awesome. I met GSP while fighting in a kickboxing match in Montreal; my opponent was training at Tri-Star and was cornered by GSP and Firas. I won the fight and afterwards GSP asked me to come up and train with him. We do some sparring to help prepare him for his fights, but he has really worked with me to improve my ground game. GSP has also introduced me to Rashad Evans who I trained with before his fight with Machida. The experiences I’ve had have been truly amazing.”
Thompson prides himself on his striking, but is quick to point out that his ground game is not one that should be overlooked. He has taken bits and pieces from all of the fighters he has trained with and found that he can be dangerous once the floor hits the canvas. Fans will always look for the knockout in his fights, but Thompson has no problem throwing a wrench into his opponents’ gameplan and showing off his grappling skills.
“We are constantly working on my ground game,” Thompson stated. “Georges has really helped me improve my grappling skills and I feel like I’m always progressing. I feel as though my ground game is very good. When you have a phenomenal wrestler like St. Pierre training you it’s impossible not to improve.”
Making it to the UFC is the goal of every mixed martial artist worth their salt. For some it comes late in their career and for others like Thompson the call comes very early and unexpectedly. Taking a fight on short notice is never easy, but you never know if an opportunity like this will come up again. Thompson understood how important this decision was and didn’t hesitate when the fight was offered.
“We jumped on the fight when it was offered,” Thompson said excitedly. “I was actually in Montreal when the UFC called. Fighting inside the Octagon has always been my goal and when my manager Lex McMahon got a hold of me I told him yes immediately. I knew there was no time to hesitate, I thought to myself, hey you got go ahead and do it, short notice or not. The UFC is where I want to be and I plan on making the most of it.”
Will the words of St. Pierre and Zahabi ring true come February 4? Will all of the years of hard work and the countless hours training with a who’s who of mixed martial arts superstars equate into success for Thompson? While we have to wait until the fight takes place, Thompson is confident enough in his abilities and plans on showing the world that he belongs in the cage with the best in the world.
“Fans are going to see a war when I step inside the Octagon this Saturday,” said a confident Thompson. “I’ve trained really hard for this opportunity and I’m ready to throw down. I plan on scoring a knockout and coming home with the win. One thing is for sure, I will not disappoint, I am going into that cage to put on a show and nothing less than that will be suffice.”
Thompson would like to thank his management company Alchemist Management, his family and training partners at Upstate Karate and Pitchblack MMA. His father Ray Thompson, Thomas Lee, Machado and Billy Jeffries have all been there for him and he wants to thank them for all they have done.