Stephen Thompson: UFC pushing Khamzat Chimaev as Khabib Nurmagomedov is gone

Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson appeared recently on Submission Radio and discussed Khamzat Chimaev, who after just three fights, and without ever having fought a top 15 contender, is fighting #3 ranked Leon Edwards in the main event of UFC on ESPN+ 43 on December 19. Wonderboy, ranked #5, had been calling for a fight with Edwards, which precluded any interest in fighting Chimaev.

“I felt disrespected when [Chimaev] kind of mentioned my name,” said Thompson. “There was like a lot of fake news about me fighting him. I was like, no, I’m not, I don’t even know who this guy is. At the time I didn’t, I really wasn’t watching a whole lot of the UFC stuff.”

“The UFC was mentioning, ‘hey, why not fight Stephen?’ … It wasn’t like, hey, Stephen you want to fight this guy? No. But there were talks about it. There was a lot of – I don’t know if it was Khamzat or maybe Khamzat’s manager Ali [Abdelaziz] kind of throwing that fake news out there. You know, sometimes he’s been known to kind of do that. And then all these other foreign media outlets were picking it up, saying I was fighting this guy. But I just kind of ignored it. … At the time, I didn’t really even know who he was. I think he’s had one fight in the welterweight division, so it just didn’t make any sense for me to do that. I’ve still got my eye on the title at the time. I’m kind of happy where I’m at, where the rankings are, who I’m fighting, because Geoff Neal, he’s fought many times in the UFC. And you really haven’t seen a whole lot of Khamzat, right? So, you don’t really know if the hype is real. He’s finished a lot of guys, but the first two guys he’s fought, I’ve never heard of. The second guy he fought ran right into his right hand. So, you know he’s a good wrestler, but you haven’t really seen a whole lot of his striking. But you’re gonna see it, because they’re the main event on this card, him and Leon Edwards.”

“Obviously, [Edwards] just didn’t want a piece of the NMF, he did not want any. … He was obviously wanting to move his way up, and he was going on social media and talking about how everybody in the top five is keeping his name out their mouth, and I’m sitting here saying, ‘hey, here I am, I’ll fight you,’ and then he turned it down. So, next thing you know, he’s getting bumped out of the rankings. And I guess it’s cause he’s been turning everybody down. I don’t know the situation, but now he’s fighting Khamzat, a guy who’s not even ranked and is on a tear at the moment, and a lot of hype around him. But yeah, he didn’t want any, I guess.”

“It kind of stings. He could have fought me, who wasn’t that far behind, who was two spots behind him. So, I figured he should have taken that fight.” 

“Rankings is becoming a non-existent thing, it’s about the exciting fights. I kind of called it. I was like, man, why are they pushing this Khamzat guy so hard. And then I was like, watch Khabib retire. And they kind of did the same thing with Till. When Bisping retired, they needed somebody from that market to keep those fans involved, and Till was it. And I guess the same thing with Khamzat. They knew that Khabib was gonna retire and they needed somebody from that market, and there you go. You’ve got this Khamzat guy who’s been doing work.”

With a win, Chimaev likely gets a title shot.

“One hundred percent,” agreed Thompson. “You know they’re gonna try and do that. You know that’s gonna happen. Before you even got it, I already knew, I already had in my head what you were thinking, and yes, I think that could be a possibility. And everybody’s like, what the heck, bro? You know the way the UFC’s going, at this point anything could happen.”

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