On his YouTube channel, Thompson said the promotion offered him a bout against Australian standout Jack Maddalena at UFC 293, six weeks from the late July event. But after a four-month training camp, he declined.
“This is literally the weekend of UFC 291, but UFC comes to me and was like, ‘Hey, how about you fight [Jack Della Maddelena] in Australia?’ … I was like, ‘No, too soon,’” Thompson said. “You know, I’ve been training since April. So my training camp has been wearing me down, want to heal up from that. So I told him no.
“And they were like, ‘OK, well, how about fighting the following weekend in Vegas?’ I was like, ‘Man, still too soon again.’ My body’s broken down. I want to be able to heal back up, but not only that, JDM is a tough dude. I want to get a full-on, proper training camp if I want to face a guy like JDM.”
Thompson, 40, wound up not fighting at UFC 291, and his lack of pay for the cancelled fight drew controversy online. Both he and UFC President Dana White said a solution would be worked out, but he has yet to be booked.
For Thompson, that solution has to include proper time to prepare for his opponents. At his age, he said he can’t afford to make quick turnarounds.
“I told UFC, ‘Look, I’ll fight the JDMs, I will fight the Ian Garrys, just give me a full training camp,’” he said. “And then a few days later, lo and behold tomorrow, Kamaru Usman calls me out?”
Usman told TMZ Sports that Thompson was a good option for the current phase of his career. The former welterweight champion most recently lost a trilogy fight against current champ Leon Edwards, and a fight with Khamzat Chimaev did not materialize despite much ink spilled on the prospect.
A fight with a former champion is exactly what Thompson is looking for.
“Let’s freaking go,” he said. “I mean, I was willing to fight the JDMs, the Ian Garrys, the Shavkat [Rakhmanovs], but then you got the guy, the No. 1 contender, the former UFC champ, one of the greatest fighters, called me out.
“This was a guy I thought I would face one day and never did, and I think he was thinking the same thing, and I was just like, ‘Let’s make this fight happen. Are you kidding me?’ I’ve been fighting [lower-ranked fighters] since Tyron Woodley — apart from Gilbert Burns — to be honest with you. I’ve been fighting those thirteens — the Geoff Neals, the Vicente Luques, the Belal Muhammads, you know, try to get that fight with Michel Pereira, who I think was 15 or 13 … giving these guys a shot.
“I want to show the UFC — and not just the UFC, the fans — that I’m not a gatekeeper. I’ve got a small window to kind of do what I want to do with the fight game. I’m 40 years old, and when I see a chance to go for another title shot before it’s over, when Kamar Usman calls me out, I’m like, dude, no brainer. No brainer.
“I mean, yes, Gilbert Burns beat me. Yes, Belal Muhammad beat me. But I’ve never faced a guy that beat me the way that they beat me before. So I learned a lot from those two fights and [have been] working on it ever since, and this is my opportunity to show the UFC and the fans and fighters out there that I got what it takes to go for that title again, that I got what it takes to face those guys in the top five, in the top three, the No. 1 contender, that I can fight for the title again.”
Thompson has twice fought for the UFC welterweight title, competing to a draw against now-former champ Woodley at UFC 205 and then losing an immediate rematch at UFC 209. He most recently stopped Kevin Holland at UFC Orlando, snapping a two-fight skid that included setbacks to Burns and Muhammad.
“It’s just an opportunity to face a guy that I’ve been wanting to fight for a while,” Thompson said of the Usman matchup. “Obviously, [fighting champion] Leon Edwards, when I beat Kamaru Usman, that’s my plan. That’s who I want.”
Below is Thompson’s full interview.