NICKNAMED the “Wonder Boy,” Stephen Thompson became an instant sensation following a masterful first-round knockout win over former UFC champion Johnny Hendricks at the UFC Fight Night 82.
For that stirring victory over a marquee opponent, Thompson jumped from no. 9 to no. 3 in the UFC welterweight ranking and is just a snap away from a shot at the title belt currently held by Robbie Lawler.
Looking at the blue-chip credentials of Thompson, his complete domination of Hendricks should not come as a surprise.
He is a former four-time world kickboxing champion with an immaculate record of 37 wins in amateur and 20 victories in the professional Chuck Norris World Combat League, before joining the UFC in 2012.
He has a professional MMA record of 12 wins, seven coming by KO, against only a loss inflicted by Matt Brown in 2012. Now it can be told that Thompson is truly a star on the rise.
Sports 5 and Cignal hosted Thompson’s “On the Rise” Manila Tour and this corner was among the chosen few to meet the father-son tandem.
The first time he showed up to a Filipino audience, he looked cool and confident. The amiable American fighter does not need to display unnecessary braggadocio to display an aura of confidence.
Thompson owes it to his early training in karate.
The younger Thomson has faced older, more experienced opponent during his younger days, when he felt more inferior and he had no right to show off. Moving on, he has learned the perfect karate movement “which is not to get hit and frustrate an opponent.”
“I love picking my opponent apart. The moment you get hit, I got you.”
And through all his fighting years, he has his father, Ray, by his side.
Thompson lives in a family where everybody practices martial arts.
“My older sister used to beat me up.”
That’s the main reason why “I don’t play any other sport than karate when I was young. But I love movies. It’s my way of getting relaxed after a tiring day in training.”
As for his relationship with his father, he said he respects his father Ray as a trainer, who has handled a lot of world champions in kickboxing. “We have a good relationship and we are able to separate his being a trainer and a father in and out of the gym.”
“I thank my son for allowing me to do my job effectively. It has been working wonders for us,” said the older Thompson.
Ray has definitely molded a well-disciplined fighter in Stephen and he credits this to the old-fashioned way of traditional martial arts.
“In karate, the students are trained to respect their opponents, their masters and their characters are developed. They are taught about self confidence and humility at the same time.”
For the Philippines to develop more MMA fighters, Ray said aspiring fighters should start with Kali, also known as arnis.
“For the martial arts to grow in your country, your kids should start with Kali. This is the martial art you are known for. Your country has deep history in this martial art and this is where your kids’ character should be built around.”