Tuesday night brought with it good news for lovers of technically superior violence, as UFC president Dana White declared that a mouth-watering welterweight showdown between Darren Till and Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson would headline a February card in England.
However, mere hours later, elation turned to disappointment, as White’s claim was sternly contradicted by Thompson’s father and trainer, Ray.
Not only did the elder Thompson reveal that ‘Wonderboy’ suffered injuries to both thumbs – they may be broken according to the coach – in his superb three-round decision win over the teak-tough Jorge Masvidal at Madison Square Garden on Saturday, but also that the team have not had any discussions with the UFC about a fight with Liverpool’s surging star, Till.
“We’ve talked to no one [about fighting Till],” Ray Thompson told MMAFighting. “Not sure how this is a ‘done deal.’ As for Till, he needs to fight through the murderers row at welterweight like ‘Wonderboy’ did to get to the top.”
“We want to fight forward.”
‘Wonderboy’ finds himself in a rather unusual position at present. When the UFC welterweight rankings were updated yesterday, the karate stylist was moved up a spot, thus he supplanted Robbie Lawler at number one. So, in actual fact, he can’t really “fight forward” unless he gets a title shot. However, despite being the highest ranked contender, his chances of receiving such an opportunity are almost nil, due to the fact that he failed to rip the title from reigning champion Tyron Woodley on two consecutive occasions in the last 12 months or so.
In order to work himself back into title contention then, Thompson needs to go on a dramatic, high-impact tear and his team are aiming for fights that will allow him to make big statements.
“We’ve been calling out [Robbie] Lawler since before the first Woodley fight and have gotten crickets on it. Why? Why hasn’t anyone talked to us about it? No one from the UFC, no one from Lawler’s camp, no one,” Ray Thompson said. “‘Wonderboy’ had one of the most fantastic, exciting fights when he fought Woodley at UFC 205. That fight stole the show. The second fight was a snoozefest, mostly because Wonderboy chased Woodley around the Octagon for five rounds. We take part of the blame since we didn’t pull the trigger often enough. Since then we feel like we are being moved out of title contention. Not saying that’s the case but it sure looks that way. What happened to the rankings?”
Though Till’s name seems to be on everybody’s lips at present, the dangerous Muay Thay specialist is ranked some seven places below Thompson at number eight and, as such, represents a high-risk, low-reward match-up for ‘Wonderboy’. A fight with Lawler, a former champion, with a big name, who is currently ranked at number two in the 170-pound division, understandably looks more attractive to Thompson.
Lawler is penciled in to face former lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos next month, so Thompson’s continued interest in ‘Ruthless’ Robbie will obviously depend on how he comes out of that contest.
If the Thompson fight doesn’t happen, Till has other options, however.
Speaking to Chamatkar Sandhu of MMAJunkie this morning, Till indicated that if ‘Wonderboy’ turns down the fight, he will target longtime verbal sparring partner Mike Perry. That is, of course, if Perry beats Argentina’s Santiago Ponzinibbio next month.
I spoke to Darren Till this morning. He told me if Stephen Thompson declines the fight then he'd like Mike Perry IF he beats Santiago Ponzinibbio. He labelled the potential Perry fight a "grudge match."
— Chamatkar Sandhu (@SandhuMMA) November 9, 2017
Last night, via Twitter, SBG Ireland head coach John Kavanagh also suggested that Gunnar Nelson might be interested in battling Till in England.
Due to the fact that Thompson’s father was the one to pour cold water on the fight, however, Till couldn’t help but have a pop at ‘Wonderboy’ on social media this morning.
— Darren Till (@darrentill2) November 9, 2017
With champion Woodley out injured and a whole host of quality fighters jockeying for position at the top of the rankings, welterweight is a chaotic but interesting division at present.