The Ultimate Fighting Championship was conceived by co-founder Rorion Gracie as a vehicle to showcase the effectiveness of Brazilian (or as he calls it Gracie) Jiu-Jitsu. The effectiveness of BJJ is evident on every card since, and over the years, the number of martial arts that have proven to work has gradually expanded.
After BJJ, the next martial art that proved effective was wrestling, as Dan Severn and Mark Coleman each established themselves as champions. Then Maurice Smith landed some Thai Kick, and stand up striking was back.
Since then a number of other martial arts have proven to be effective. The great Fedor Emelianenko proved that Combat Sambo is an effective fighting system. Yoshida, Parisyan, and others showed that Judo techniques can be world beating. Lyoto Machida used a base of traditional Japanese Shotokan karate (with footwork that his father developed) to take the UFC Lightheavyweight title without losing a round.
Of all the world's martial arts, one is perhaps most glaringly underrepresented, American Karate. While many MMA fans imagine that BJJ and like academies dominate the martial arts landscape, opening the yellow pages quickly dispenses with that belief.
The USA is the most dominant country in MMA, but the most popular martial art in the States does not have a single exponent of note in the sport.
At UFC 143, with the debut of Stephen "Wonderboy" Thompson, that may change, as reported by MMA Fighting's Mike Chiappetta.
In amateur kickboxing, Stephen "Wonderboy" Thompson was 37-0. As a pro kickboxer, 20-0. As a professional mixed martial artist, he's 5-0 so far. That's 62 straight fights without a loss.
Georges St-Pierre's trainer Firas Zahabi recently called Thompson "definitely the best karate guy, the best striker I've ever seen, all around in any sport."
The welterweight brings his exceptional record to this weekend's UFC 143, where he faces fellow octagon rookie Daniel Stittgen.
Ask him about the last time he lost a fight in competition and he has to scan his memory, traveling more than a decade back into the 1990s, when he was a 12-year-old on the karate tournament circuit.
Now 28 years old, Thompson aims to prove he is much more than a standup artist. He has a black belt in Japanese jiu-jitsu, trains Brazilian jiu-jitsu under his brother-in-law, eighth-degree black belt Carlos Machado, and says his wrestling is his second strongest skill behind his striking.
Thompson started in the martial arts at three years old, training under his father, Ray, who owns a karate studio in Simpsonville, South Carolina.
He trained there. He ate there. He did his homework there.
By the time he was 15, he made his amateur American Rules kickboxing debut, defeating an unbeaten 26-year-old en route to 37 straight victories.
"My goal was always to be the best fighter, and in order to do that, I was going to have to switch to MMA and use these skills that I've been working on ever since I was younger but never got to use in competition," Thompson said.
"People always ask me what will happen if I lose, and I never really thought about it until they asked me. If I do lose, it will just give me a stronger drive to train harder. I know guys are out here to rip my head off and trip me up. But coming from my background almost gives me an advantage because I know guys are going to want to take me down. Everyone out there can look for an exciting fight, and it's going to be another knockout."
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