Stephen "Wonderboy" Thompson: Karate Lives! (Exclusive Interview)
Last week, LowKick.com Staff Writer Trent Reinsmith featured Stephen Thompson in his list of “5 Fighters I want to see in the UFC”. Now, it’s time to get some in-depth info about the fighter who we consider to be currently one of the top prospects in MMA.
Labeled by Mixed Martial Arts experts as “GSP’s secret weapon”, Kickboxing veteran Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson (56-0 with 40KOs) recently started his journey in the world of Mixed Martial Arts, with sights on becoming the next big thing. Currently training at the world-famous Tristar Gym in Montreal, Canada, Thompson has all the necessary conditions to make his dreams come true.
“Wonderboy” Thompson made his MMA debut back in 2010, with an impressive 2nd round TKO victory. Since then, Thompson went on a 5-0 streak with another TKO finish and a Rear Naked Choke Submission “W”. Wonderboy is currently under contract with the Canadian Ringside MMA promotion, where the “Tristar” product will look to take his career to the next level.
We had an opportunity to speak with Stephen Thompson, who shared his thoughts about training alongside Georges St. Pierre, Karate in MMA, Ghokan Saki vs. Badr Hari, and much more. Make sure to follow Thompson on Twitter @WonderboyMMA.
What can you tell about training with Georges St Pierre, who is without a doubt one o the greatest fighters to ever compete in MMA. Obviously, you’ve got your kickboxing background, so you are not new to fighting, but being relatively new to mixed martial arts, what kind of influence has he had on you?
Well, getting a call from Georges St. Pierre asking you to come and help him with his stand-up is an honor. I know he’s the top of the game, the best out there at 170-pounds. It’s been really good learning from him because, I’m not just helping him, he’s helping me with my wrestling and jiu-jitsu. So, it’s kind of a back and forth thing as well.
And as I’ve mentioned, you’re relatively new to mixed martial arts. When did you decided to make the transition from kickboxing and why did you make that decision?
Well, when I was in kickboxing, of course MMA was just up and coming. It was the new thing, and everyone wanted to see it. So, I had it on my mind that I wanted to go to MMA, but never really went for it until I injured my knee. About six-years ago I injured my left knee, I tore every ligament in my left leg. It took me about three-years to recover. I had two surgeries on it, a replaced ACL and everything. They had to take 40% of my meniscus out. So, it was a pretty serious injury, and I had a lot of time to think about where I wanted my career to go from there. And that’s when I made the jump (to MMA). Basically, my main art is Karate, Kenpo Karate. It’s very similar to MMA – we do the striking, we do the wrestling, we do the jiu-jitsu. So, I’ve always had it on my mind that I wanted to make the jump, but never really actually went for it until after my injury.
Actually, if I’m not mistaken, Frank Mir is also a black-belt in Kenpo Karate.
Yea, actually he is. Frank Mir, and I know Chuck Liddell did Kempo Karate. I mean, the styles are fairly similar. You have two Kenpo’s: You have K-E-N-P-O and then you have K-E-M-P-O. Which, there’s a slight difference.
Right, and Georges St. Pierre studied Kyokushin Karate…
Yea, he did Kyokushin – very traditional. That’s his background and that’s where he started his training. Of course you’ve also got Lyoto Machida, whose got a Karate background as well. So, Karate is coming back man!
Exactly. And there’s been talk that Karate is useless in MMA. So, here is the stage and I think you will be working to prove that it’s very useful, actually.
Well, that’s my goal. There’s a lot of things in Karate that people don’t see, and there’s a lot of people out there that have given Karate a bad name. I’m not saying anybody that has fought for the UFC, or fought MMA, but it’s been around for a very, very long time. In the beginning, everybody thought Karate was useless, but now they’re starting to see that it has it’s benefits.
Being a kickboxer at core, what can you say about the current state of the sport? Obviously, with the current situation around K-1 in mind.
To be honest, I think K-1 is very fun to watch, very entertaining, but people want to see it all. MMA is the closet thing that you’re going to get to what the gladiators used to do. The ground and pound, taking opponents down, they want to see that. I wouldn’t say that K-1 is… Well I guess it is kind of dying. I mean, you see less and less of it. But, I think the Japanese are going to keep it going as long as they can.
There’s a big fight coming up in January, between Badr Hari and Ghokan Saki at It’s Showtime in the Netherlands. Who’s your pick?
Ah man, I love Badr Hari.
So, your pick for this fight is Badr Hari?
Oh yea, I love him. I mean, I don’t like his attitude, but I love the way he fights.
Now, back to MMA. What, in your opinion, do you believe you have to do to become a star and reach the top of the pyramid?
Everybody says I have the striking game down, so there’s only two things I’m really focusing on right now and that’s my wrestling and my jiu-jitsu. I’m getting better at it everyday. I’ve got the best jiu-jitsu coaches. I’ve got Faris Zahabi, and my main jiu-jitus coach Carlos Machado, who is my brother-in-law. So, he’s my Jiu-Jitsu coach and we’re training everyday. I’m getting the best wrestling training here in Canada. Back home I’ve got my wrestling coach, Thomas Lee, and we’re working everyday. That’s the thing I’m focused on most, is making sure I’ve got my wrestling and jiu-jitsu down before I make that step up, let’s say to the UFC. I just signed with Ringside here in Montreal, which is a very good promotion. I felt comfortable with them because Canada is like my second home. I spend a lot of time here, a lot of training here, and I have a lot of friends who I consider, basically, family. So, I think it’s a good move.
And you’ve already got one fight that you finished by submission as a result of all of your hard work. Do you currently have a fight scheduled?
Not yet, but I know Ringside has some fights coming up either in January or February. So, until then, I’m going to be training really hard – really, really hard. This is an everyday thing, this is what I do, this is my life.
I’m sure you’re watching shows like The Ultimate Fighter and there is sometimes controversy, pranks, and things that some people would call negative. Do you picture yourself ever being on The Ultimate Fighter and then from there getting into the UFC? Is that something that you would like to experience?
I’ve talked to a few guys and you get difference opinions. They say, “Hey, you need to do The Ultimate Fighter, it would be good for you.” And then some people say, “Hey, if you can avoid it, try to avoid it.” But, either way I think I would be happy. If I was on The Ultimate Fighter, then that’s the road I decided to take. It would be a good experience either way.
So, you don’t think that being on The Ultimate Fighter is necessary to become successful in the UFC? Because, I’m sure your goal is to eventually become a UFC fighter.
Oh yea. I think it would be a good move to go to The Ultimate Fighter and to make that road my step up to the UFC. That’s definitely an option, but if we can, I’m just trying to avoid it. But, we’ll see where it goes.