Stephen Thompson won six world kickboxing titles and amassed a mark of 63-0 as an amateur and pro before joining the UFC. (Kevin C. Cox/Zuffa LLC)
ATLANTA -- Of the six preliminary fights airing on FX before Saturday's UFC 145 pay-per-view telecast, none is more intriguing than Stephen Thompson's meeting with veteran Matt Brown.
A six-time world champion kickboxer, Thompson became an overnight sensation in February with a spectacular first-round knockout of Dan Stittgen in his UFC debut, a four-minute stoppage that earned the Simpsonville, S.C., native a $65,000 bonus for the Knockout of the Night.
"There is a little pressure [to follow up] a four-minute knockout in your first UFC fight," Thompson, 28, said at Thursday's open workouts at Georgia State University. "But you're fighting better guys now. Matt Brown has been in the fight game for a very long time. He's got a lot of experience. So I'm not expecting to go out and knock this guy out. If it happens, it happens."
The 32-year-old Brown felt his knockout of Chris Cope on the same card as Thompson's debut was more deserving the bonus, making no secret of it. Ultimately, he asked to face Thompson -- a request Dana White, no enemy to drama, was happy to grant.
The media in Thompson's native South Carolina have done their part to hype the fight. When Thompson appeared on a local radio station -- "93.3 The Planet," he recalled with a smile -- Brown called into the station while his opponent was being interviewed on the air. (Brown confessed Thursday the radio station had orchestrated the dust-up by scheduling the call.)
Thompson trained with Rashad Evans for a week in Florida while preparing for Saturday's sophomore outing. The two first met when Thompson was flown to Albuquerque to help Evans prepare for his May 2009 fight with Lyoto Machida. They've kept up a good relationship and Thompson has been training with him ever since.
And though Evans is a 5-to-1 underdog against Jon Jones in Saturday's main event, Thompson is bullish on the former champion's upset chances.
"The guy's a monster man, he's a beast," Thompson said. "He’s so ready. Mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually, he’s there. So I’m excited to see that one."
-- Bryan Armen Graham