Stephen Thompson Ready to Let It All Out Against Tyron Woodley at UFC 209
Despite only having the rematch against Woodley announced last week, Thompson has been thinking about what he'd do differently ever since he walked out of Madison Square Garden.
Making changes for UFC 209
Reflecting on the last fight now, the No. 1 contender knows he must enter the contest next time having made both physical and mental changes.
"Well, immediately after the fight, I knew going into this fight I was going to be more confident," Thompson told Submission Radio. "Obviously, I don't like to make excuses or anything like that. I performed the way I performed.
"It wasn't 100 percent. I wasn't all there mentally, I think. I was a little hesitant, walking around really light, and that kind of bothered me a little bit."
Watching Chris Weidman get knocked out before his fight
Prior to Thompson's fight at UFC 205, he watched his training partner and family member Chris Weidman suffer a brutal flying-knee KO against Yoel Romero.
Thompson said he didn't think it affected him on the night, but he mentioned it wasn't an experience that he would like to repeat.
"I sat there and thought, 'Why didn't I let my hands go? What was going on?'" Thompson said. "Maybe it could have been Chris Weidman, watching him being defeated the way it happened. I don't think so, [be]cause I'm a professional.
"I knew that was up next and I've had fighters fight before me and it didn't go very well. But even then, having one of your best friends (and having) that happen to him, it is kind of devastating."
Confident heading into rematch
Having now shared the Octagon with Woodley for 25 minutes and been through all the hype of being on the UFC's biggest show of all time, Thompson now feels he's in a much better place to deal with the mental demands of the occasion.
"It could've been the hype of the whole event," Thompson said. "I'm not sure. But going into this next fight, knowing that the last fight I wasn't 100 percent and still took the best Tyron Woodley all five rounds, took his best shot, his best submission and helped him up off the canvas after that fourth round, it gives me the confidence to go in that next fight and just let it all out.
"Obviously, we both felt each other. I know his timing. He's felt me a little bit, but he still hasn't seen everything that I can throw. If you go back and watch my previous fights, I throw more volume, there's more kicks, different angles, and I just didn't do that in my last fight. So there's still some things that he's gotta watch out for, and that also gives me the confidence going into this next fight as well."
Getting heavier to deal with Woodley's strength
While happy to admit that he needed to make changes to his mental approach, Thompson was also quick to highlight the physiological changes he must make before getting back in the Octagon with someone the size of Woodley.
"I stopped using a strength and conditioning coach for like the past six fights -- after the Matt Brown fight -- and it just kind of didn't sit well with me," Thompson said. "I was kind of doing my own thing, and I hired a very explosive guy, more sports-specific training, and I saw the results. Actually, one of my sparring partners was using this guy, and when we would spar and when we would do jiu-jitsu, I could feel how much more powerful, how much more explosive and faster he was, so I decided to give this guy a shot. And we're doing more sports-specific stuff, explosive movements, things like that, which is going to make me faster out there.
"Obviously, putting the right fuel in my body for this camp has also helped me heal, and of course the faster your body heals, the more it grows. And I'm trying not to get over 195. I'm about 190 right now. I'm going to stay right there.
"I'm not trying to get too, too heavy, but big enough to where I can handle his power, his big, thick size out there in the fight. Because the last fight, I literally weighed myself before I stepped out there -- I was 178. And I know he was close to the back of 200. And when there's that much of a spread, it definitely matters out there in those clinch positions. So not trying to get too crazy-big, but man do I feel much faster, much more explosive than I did last time."
Thompson's full interview begins at 1:23:20 here: