Stephen Thompson explains why he took Shavkat Rakhmonov fight after previously not being interested in it

By Cole Shelton - September 27, 2023

Stephen Thompson surprised many when he revealed on social media that he had accepted a fight against Shavkat Rakhmonov at UFC 296.

Stephen Thompson

Thompson was offered Rakhmonov last year and told in August 2022, that he turned it down because he wasn’t interested in the matchup. Part of the reason why ‘Wonderboy’ turned the fight down was because he wanted to face another striker, as he was coming off back-to-back losses to Belal Muhammad and Gilbert Burns.

Stephen Thompson ended up getting a striker in the form of Kevin Holland and went on to win that fight via TKO. With that, his focus once again turned to the welterweight title. So, ‘Wonderboy’ told the UFC he would fight anyone ranked above him and someone who would get him a title shot, which he feels Rakhmonov does.

RELATED: Colby Covington planning to put Leon Edwards’ ‘lights out’ at UFC 296.

“The Usman fight didn’t happen, so there was Shavkat. I know he was supposed to fight Gastelum… I saw him on social media, I know he’s ranked above me, and it just worked out for the both of us,” Thompson said on The MMA Hour. “It was a year-and-a-half ago, maybe, I think, the UFC wanted me to fight Shavkat, and to be honest with you, I didn’t know who he was at the time. I think he’s only had, like, five fights in the UFC. Obviously, I turned it down, I didn’t know who the guy was, and then after that I tuned in and saw him fight Neil Magny, saw him fight Geoff Neal, and I’m like, ‘Bro, this dude’s legit,’ and now he’s ranked above me.

“So, anybody that’s ranked above me, I told the UFC I’m down for. This is the guy I think could possibly be welterweight champ at some point. He’s that good, undefeated, I think he has a 100 percent finish rate, so what better guy to go out there and show the world and the UFC that I deserve a title shot by fighting this guy?” Thompson concluded.

Stephen Thompson is currently ranked seventh at welterweight and is 17-6-1 as a pro.


Shavkat Rakhmonov Stephen Thompson UFC