Stephen Thompson has unfinished business on his mind.
The former kickboxing champion turned UFC title challenger's last outing was a five-round war with welterweight champion Tyron Woodley that ended in a draw at UFC 205. Over the course of the 25-minute tilt, both men were pushed to their limits, and the end result left neither competitor satisfied with the outcome.
Thompson is eager to get the rematch set in stone, so much, in fact, he's already signed his bout agreement for the fight. The only issue holding up the showdown is Woodley has yet to sign on the dotted line, and the champion's hesitation has put things in a holding pattern.
Instead of locking down a second bout with Thompson, the current 170-pound titleholder has been shopping fights with some of the biggest names in MMA. Thompson is no stranger to these antics from Woodley, but he is more than ready to get beyond the back-and-forth and get down to the fight.
"I signed the contract for this fight [the Woodley rematch] before Christmas break," Thompson told FloCombat. "I know Woodley is out there saying I'm entitled and what not, but I just signed the contract that was given to me by the UFC. I didn't ask for it. I didn't beg for it. The UFC wants this fight to happen and so do the fans.
"I'm the No. 1 contender, and it was a draw. If I were in his shoes and I was the champion, I couldn't leave it at that. I have to prove to everyone I'm the best, and leaving it at a draw is not a good way of doing that. That's just not champion material in my eyes."
While Thompson has been in the gym preparing for his next go inside the Octagon, his last bout with Woodley has given him plenty of things to work on. Thompson is the first to admit his game felt a bit off during the five rounds of ruckus at Madison Square Garden, but he's confident the adjustments will be made to ensure every moment is capitalized.
"Going back and watching the fight and remembering the way I felt out there, I was a little too hesitant," Thompson said. "I didn't throw the things I normally throw. If you go back and watch my previous fights, I do a lot more switching and use a lot more angles out there with kicks. I just didn't do that in my last fight.
"I don't know if it was because of all the hype behind the card and it being the biggest fight in UFC history and me being in a title fight on that card. I'm not quite sure if that was what affected me, but I just didn't throw the things I normally do when I fight. I've watched the fight with my coaches, and we are going to tweak some things and really let everything go in this next one.
"I know how he feels out there and how powerful he is now," he added. "I'm walking around heavier to counter that inside the Octagon, and fans are just going to see a different Stephen 'Wonderboy' Thompson when I step out there again."
As Thompson continues to push for the fight, Woodley is jockeying to step in with anyone but the No. 1 contender in the welterweight ranks. And while Thompson sees the appeal of "money fights" in cases like Conor McGregor and Ronda Rousey, the South Carolina native puts far more stock into the competitive foundation the sport was built upon.
If the ebb and flow of that process were to crumble, Thompson believes it could lead to the downfall of MMA itself.
"If things keep going this way, I believe it's going to push a lot of fans away," Thompson said. "Fans are going to be unwilling to watch the sport, because this thing was founded on different mode of competition than we are seeing now. When it comes down to it, we are here for the honor and glory. At least I am anyway. I want to be the best fighter.
"He's out there calling out Georges St-Pierre, Nick Diaz, Michael Bisping and Demian Maia. He's calling out everyone except for the one guy who already has the contract and who is standing in front of him wanting to finish this unfinished business we have.
"A lot of fans and the UFC want this fight to happen. Just sign the contract and let's settle the score. Hopefully we'll be ready to rock 'n' roll on March 4."
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