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Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson talks upcoming fight, title aspirations, training with GSP

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Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson, one of the newest members of the UFC Welterweight Top Ten may soon springboard to the very top of the 170lb ladder.  But first he’ll need to get past his next opponent, Johny Hendricks, the most accomplished fighter he’s faced in his entire MMA career.

An impressive win over the well-rounded and always dangerous Jake “The Juggernaut” Ellenberger was his latest effort in a five-fight win streak, earning Wonderboy the number nine spot in the Official UFC Welterweight Rankings.

Early in that fight Ellenberger blasted Thompson with a powerful shot, dropping him to the canvas, but Thompson’s will was put to the test and he passed with flying colors. In a display of tremendous heart he stood his ground and stuck to the gameplan, scoring an amazing knockout via spinning hook kick with just 30 seconds left in the 1st round.

That’s right, a SPINNING HOOK KICK, lest anyone was unclear as to why he’s called Wonderboy. He’s a real life superhero and his ninja skills have been on full display his entire MMA career, especially during his UFC tenure. The Ellenberger fight was his first Main Event headliner and it put another highlight reel KO on his resume, earning him a 3rd Performance of the Night bonus and a major victory over a high profile opponent.

MMA Latest had the opportunity to speak with Wonderboy Thompson ahead of his UFC 196 co-main event bout, which takes place in Las Vegas on February 6th.  He’ll be taking on the most recent UFC Welterweight Champion, #3 ranked Johny “Bigg Rigg” Hendricks.

 

Rodney James Edgar: Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson ladies and gentleman. Thanks for speaking with me today. So let’s get right to it, you have a big fight coming up real soon. How are you feeling?

Stephen Thompson: Oh man I’m feeling good; just winding down my friend, getting ready for UFC 196.

Congratulations on your last fight against Jake Ellenberger, that was an incredible fight with an incredible finish.

Yeah man. That was last July. 1st round KO, you got it!

At 1:15 of the first (and only) round, Ellenberger dropped you with a big punch. You showed a ton of heart and a great chin by fighting through the adversity, how rocked were you?

You know, I was actually feeling good about myself that I could take his best shot. But I didn’t go out. It was like a flash knockdown. I was still coherent, my legs just gave out on me, which is why I kinda [sic] shot in for the legs and recovered fairly well. But in my head I’m thinking, ‘you know what, I’m losing this fight, so I gotta [sic] take it to this guy right now’. After that I was on him like white on rice and I hit him with not one, but two spinning hook kicks before the end of the round and finished him.

Next you’re facing former UFC Welterweight Champion Johny Hendricks – how did that fight come about?

After the Ellenberger fight I knew I was ranked number nine. I wanted to keep moving forward, but around August or September the top seven guys either had fights coming up or they were injured. They had me facing against Neil Magny at UFC 195. I was kind of disappointed because I wanted to keep moving up and at the time he was ranked number fifteen. But I’m a fighter, so I took the fight and then he ended up actually taking a fight on short notice with Kelvin Gastelum so it left me without an opponent yet again. So then around Thanksgiving I was actually up in New York helping Chris Weidman get ready for his fight. I got a call and all my manager said was, “Johny Hendricks, BOOM!” and I’m like, ‘yeah let’s do it.’ That’s why I’m in the game. I’m in here to fight the best. What’s better than to face off against the former champion and number three ranked guy in the world?  So here I am, just ready to step out there into the Octagon my friend.

I feel like Hendricks and Ellenberger are very similar in that both are very compact, muscular welterweights with knockout power and outstanding wrestling. Is this your toughest opponent yet?

Oh definitely, definitely. He’s the best opponent of my career so far, but man, I’m confident. I’m ready to go out there, keep him at the end of my punches, keep moving and keep him at bay with my kicks. Hopefully, we’ll get another finish like Ellenberger. Hendricks has been in there with the world’s best. He’s spent ten rounds in there with Robbie Lawler, the current champ, so he’s no slouch. He’s a monster.

Hendricks had to pull out of his last bout with Tyron Woodley due to health problems he endured while cutting weight. How frustrating is it to see that at the highest professional level?

Yeah man it’s definitely a huge disappointment. We’re professionals and we need to act like professionals. In his last fight he wasn’t really focused on it. It was almost like he didn’t care, which is why he didn’t make weight. To cut as much weight as he does, I mean he’s walking around at 220…and to try and make 170, that’s dangerous. I know he’s hired a different nutritionist so I think we’re going to see the best Johny Hendricks on February 6th. I’m prepared for it, I’m focused I have a great team behind me. We’re ready to throw down baby!

I’m convinced that a win against the former champion will put you a fight or two away from a title shot. Hypothetically you could leapfrog Matt Brown who represents your one and ONLY career loss. You may even end up fighting him in a title eliminator depending on how the division shifts. How important is it for you to avenge that defeat?

When it first happened, yeah. That was something I really wanted to get back. Where I’m at now though, if I face him or not, I really don’t care. I’ll do what I have to do to get the title and that’s my goal. So when I beat Johny Hendricks, it’s like you said, depending on the division and where it’s at, you know, I want to go for that title and hopefully we can get that against Robbie Lawler.

You fight with your hands down a lot, you’ve been able to rely on pure athleticism but that could be very dangerous against the division’s elite. Have you made adjustments?

That’s something that I’ve always done. When I’m out in the cage I feel like my hands are up. But they’re not. When I go back and watch the fight, they’re way down. But it’s something I’ve always done. I started my full contact training at age 12, I had my first fight at 15. I’ve just kept the point fighting style, and it really helps me distribute my weight when I’m facing off against these power punchers, heavy hitters. It’s a style I’ve used to stay away from the big shots from the bigger guys and I’ve just kept it ever since. If you ever watch Muhammad Ali, I’ve picked up a lot of my style from him. It just helps me, it’s my style and it works for me.

I found a quote in which Georges St. Pierre called you the world’s greatest striker. How does that sound?

Man, that’s awesome. I remember when he said that. At the time I was strictly kickboxing, and then I started going up there (to Canada) and helping him out with his camps and he was one of my inspirations to start doing MMA. But yeah, it’s an honor to have one of the all-time greatest Welterweights say I am the best striker ever. It definitely puts a smile on my face.

I know that Chris Weidman has been bringing you in as a sparring partner starting back when he was preparing for Anderson Silva the first time. GSP also utilized your world-class striking to help him prepare many times. Lately some credible MMA media outlets have teased a possible return for the longtime champ. Do you know anything about that?

You know, I have no idea. We tried to get him out here for my camp, but I understand he has a camp to run up there (in Canada) and he’s got a few guys fighting in February so he couldn’t make it out. But no, I haven’t heard anything about him coming back. For me personally, in my opinion, there’s no need for him to come back.

Cain Velazquez vs Fabricio Werdum headlines the Pay Per View that you’re fighting on. Any predictions for that main event?

I believe that Cain is going to come back with a vengeance, but I don’t know…those top athletes, the top guys in the division, it’s hard to pick somebody at that level. But I think Cain Velazquez learned a lot from his last fight, his loss and I think he’s coming for blood.

 

I’m excited that you are finally getting an opportunity to fight against such a high profile opponent and gain the recognition that you deserve, best of luck and I’ll be in touch.

Thank you my friend, always a pleasure talking with you. Take care.

 

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Announcement

Tom Gallicchio on UFC Release “It’s Been a Dream of Mine to Fight in KSW”

Harry Davies

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MMA Latest spoke to TUF 22 and 25 season competitor Tom Gallicchio about being cut from the UFC, and potential promotions that he could sign for in the future.

Gallicchio (19-10) signed for the UFC after reaching the semi-finals of The Ultimate Fighter: Season 25. Losing to James Krause in his debut, “Da Tank” was informed earlier this month that the UFC had parted ways with him.


Q: Before we jump into the whole free agency stuff, talk me through how the UFC broke the news that they were going to release you?

I thought I was going to have another fight, this time at lightweight. I got a letter dated July 7th, saying they were going to keep me, I received it in September. I was getting emails to update my USADA, I never got a cut letter and I got tested by USADA on October 24th. I was hoping to fight sometime in January or February, then they broke the news to me that they need to make a room for new talent.

Q: You made your UFC debut against James Krause in July, then 4 months down the line, they cut you. How surprised were you at this somewhat out of the blue decision?

I’m thankful for my opportunity in the UFC and the fact that they gave me another shot, but it was definitely surprising how it happened.  They released a newsletter in September welcoming Jesse (Taylor) Dhiego (Lima) and myself into the UFC, all signs pointed towards another fight. Hearing that I was cut was just heartbreaking.

Q: Have any talks started with a new promotion. I saw you name a few on Twitter, the likes of  Bellator, BAMMA, KSW and ACB. Who do you see yourself signing for?

I would love to compete in any of those! A couple of them hit me up, one of which I am very happy to talk with. Since they came out, It’s been a dream of mine to fight in KSW. They’re taking care of their fighters, I would love to fight for them. I want to travel, I want to see the world, I want to fight. I’ve got a lot of fans overseas and I want to give them a show.

It’s been a dream of mine to fight in KSW.

Q: Your long time friend Jesse Taylor was victorious in the TUF 25 Finale, but he has since accepted a 1-year ban for failing a USADA test. What is your take on this given how close you two are?

I know Jesse is not a juicer, I’ve known him ever since I came down to (Team) Quest. It’s probably come from some supplement that he’s taking, it sucks for him. I think he went into a little bit of panic mode, he could have done a better job of handling it.

I don’t take supplements, if there was a way, I’d still keep myself in the USADA pool just because I believe in a clean sport. I think it’s important we keep the sport clean and if we’re cleaning up the supplement companies then good, because no one else is.

Where would you look to see Tom fight next? Let us know below!

 

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ACB

Rany Saadeh pleased with the opportunities ACB brings, promises a finish in his debut on Saturday

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The BAMMA Flyweight belt was ruled for years by none other than Rany Saadeh, During his reign as champion he successfully defended the belt on two occasions. His dominance over the division saw him go undefeated in BAMMA and without a loss since 2012. Following the expiration of his contract, Rany vacated his BAMMA belt to explore new challenges.

He has now signed with ACB and is set to make his debut in only a matter of days at ACB 74 in Austria where he will take on Darren Mima. In a recent catch up with Rany, he explained his reasoning behind joining ACB and his goals in the promotion.

“ACB is the fastest growing organization in MMA. They’ve promised me an active career with events all over the world and a tempting bonus structure. It was just what I was looking for. I’ve looked into the competition and I can honestly say that the competition at flyweight is just as good, if not even better than in the UFC. Being the ACB title holder would make me a legit world champion.”

Ahead of his bout with Mima, we are set to see some new stuff from Saadeh as he claims to have changed up his style after a solid camp for this fight, guaranteeing us a surprise.

“I didn’t need to change anything for him but my style changed in general since my last fight. I’ve had an excellent camp with high-level training partners and coaches. I’m very grateful for my coaches who have put hours of private work into me this year. Especially with my new boxing coach Luciano Robledo, I can guarantee a surprise.”

The confidence is evident as he tells me how he sees the fight going. Promising his well-rounded arsenal of both strikes and grappling are worthy of bonuses, something he’d be very keen on considering the set-up in ACB.

“I will not just completely dominate but also finish.” He began, “I can imagine this fight being a wild brawl and dropping my opponent. Also on the ground, I have some slick submissions that are bonus-worthy.”

Having been successful in BAMMA, Rany is striving for more glory as plans on taking home the ACB title becoming the first Western European to do so.

“Of course!” he says with determination in his voice, “I’m coming into ACB as a world champion and the #1 ranked flyweight in Western Europe. After winning this fight, the title fight is right there”

It’s now been over a year since we’ve seen, “Prince” enter the cage. A decision voluntarily made by the German as he adjusted his game.

“It was mid last year when I had started to adjust my game. These changes take time and as the wished competition wasn’t there, I decided to take some time off fighting to prepare for a bigger challenge.”

Now having departed ways with BAMMA, the British promotion now has a new champion in Daniel Barez. Unfortunately for Rany, his reasons for leaving was the lack of competition has beaten everyone put in front of him with money being an issue that stepped in the way too. Despite any negativity derived from his departure, he does not rule out a return to the promotion where he was once Flyweight king.

“The competition in Europe just got very thin. With five fights in BAMMA, I somehow wasn’t very impressed with the opportunities left. Neither I got the fights, nor the purse that I needed to take my career further. After two title defenses, it felt like I was standing still which isn’t just BAMMA’s fault. Altogether, they are a great promotion and I wouldn’t exclude a return.”

When the UFC announced they would have the best flyweights from around the world enter the TUF house with a shot at the belt going to the winner. Many would have thought Rany Saadeh would have been up there. The season had champions from all over the world but no one from BAMMA, something strange considering the number of champions they signed in the past year from the promotion.

In an unfortunate circumstance for Saadeh, it was not his fault he wasn’t in the house as the UFC did come knocking but BAMMA just weren’t letting their champ go. Despite this situation, there is no bad blood anymore as Saadeh has moved on with things now.

“The UFC was definitely interested in putting me on the show and it is not true that BAMMA wasn’t asked. They were asked but didn’t want to be part of it. Without their permission, I wasn’t able to take part in the TUF. But I’m not mad at that anymore, I feel like it will make better opportunities possible.”

Having missed out on a possible UFC opportunity before, it isn’t on his mind anymore as he remains pleased with his life and is mainly looking to support his family in the future.

“I really don’t care, I’m set for the next few fights. All I want now is a decent living from fighting and provide for my family in the near future. ACB is not just giving me the chance to reach that goal but also giving me the challenges that I need. So far, I’m a very happy person”

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Bellator

Anthony “PrettyBoy” Taylor wants to knockout Trey Branch then fight Brian Moore in Bellator on St. Patricks Day

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Going from postlim fights in Bellator to a co-main event and then a main card fight after with such little professional experience isn’t something you’d hear of very often in the slightest. In this case Anthony “PrettyBoy” Taylor is the exception, who in only his third professional fight went to Ireland as part of the co-main event for a fight with James Gallagher. Taylor became well known to many in the build-up to that fight for being so outspoken and quite an entertainer, something he carries with him to the cage.

Anthony Taylor now has himself a fight lined up in a regional show near his home in California at California Fighting Championships. This will be his first time fighting back in America since May 2016. His last two bouts were in Europe as part of Bellator’s expansion into Europe. Following two losses he now hopes to get back in the win column in front of a home crowd. Taking this fight as a tune off fight Anthony is confident he won’t be touched by his opponent Trey Branch.

“Well, I’m taking this fight because Bellator said I’ll be fighting next year for overseas and it will be a good tune off fight for me. I think of trey like any other fighter. Just a guy who’s not going to touch me nor beat me.”

His opponent Trey Branch is jumping up from flyweight for this fight, Anthony believes he’s going to dominate his opponent and knock him out with ease. Now having 3 career losses coming via submission, he is not worried about his ground game, guaranteeing it was improved from training with some of the top fighters in Bellator.

“I believe I’m going to overpower him and KO him. He’s coming up from 125lb to fight me which I stated to the world on Bellator that I’m the strongest 45er in the world!! And as far as my ground game, it’d be covered and it’s great. Thanks to AJ McKee, Baby Slice, Joey Davis and Aaron Pico. My ground game is great and up there to the level, as there’s”

Looking ahead to next year when he competes in Bellator again, Taylor has his eyes set on a big fight in a return to Irish soil.

“Well Bellator loves me and I proved them that I belong there. I haven’t been told when I was fighting but I hope it’s back in Ireland, and maybe on St. Patricks day and hopefully I’ll fight Brian Moore because me and him been wanting to fight the longest.”

As a training partner for AJ McKee, Taylor was very pleased with how the fight went down, claiming it was a simple enough fight for his teammate that apparently didn’t train much for the fight. Suffering a loss on the initial trip to the emerald isle, “PrettyBoy” wants to come back and take home a win next time around.

“Oh man it was an easy fight for AJ, he only trained 2 weeks for that Brian Moore fight” he laughs “but absolutely it would be a great show if I was also on the show me and James alone still holds the record of views internationally and I’m looking to come back and taking what’s mines which is that W”

The win against Brian Moore could now potentially line up a fight between McKee and James Gallagher, fight fans have long sought after. Having fought against James and training with McKee on the regular Taylor isn’t convinced that Gallagher is ready for the AJ just yet. He also had some words about SBG fighters who were calling out Baby Slice.

“James is not ready for AJ. And people calling out slice since he’s new in the game. Why are sbg guys not calling out Joey Davis?? They are all talk and think that they’re better than everyone.”

With a win on Saturday, Anthony Taylor thinks it will kick him off to a series of consecutive wins that could ultimately land him in a fight with Emmanuel Sanchez.

“Yes it will start off (Saturday) and I believe it will set me up tremendously. I’m only getting better and I plan on winning fights in Bellator and then taking out Emanuel Sanchez. I do not like him, I hate him”

“I don’t like his style and he’s always hating on my teammates so I want his head” he added

Away from the fight scene, Anthony is pleased with the life that he’s got set up for himself with his newfound love since joining Bellator as he now aims to break into the movie industry too.

“Man it’s been great I now have a wonderful woman in my life so I’m happy. I’m acting too, trying to get into the movies industry and God has blessed me which so much love”

You can follow Anthony Taylor on all his social media accounts to keep an eye out for all his upcoming fight information and results.

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