stephen-thompson-3.jpg“Wonderboy” Stephen Thompson now says he stays away from public encounters where he could be called to use his feet and fists. They’re legal liabilities as much as assets. 

But back when the UFC welterweight was growing up, he relied on a different weapon to avoid trouble: his sister.

“My sister paved my way through high school,” Thompson (6-1 MMA, 1-1 UFC), who fights Nah-Shon Burrell (9-2 MMA, 1-0 UFC) at UFC 160, told MMAjunkie.com Radio (www.mmajunkie.com/radio). She fought before I did while she was in high school. Nobody would mess with her. ‘Don’t mess with him, man. She’ll kick you in the head.’”

The 30-year-old South Carolina native comes from a family of martial artists, so he’s been well looked after. His dad, Ray Thompson, was a pro kickboxer in the ’70s and ’80s and got him involved in karate at age 3. But it was his sister, Lindsay, who was first to fight for real. Now, she’s married to his jiu-jitsu instructor, Carlos Machado. 

More than a dozen family members and friends will cheer him on Saturday when he meets Burrell on the Facebook-streamed preliminary card of Saturday’s pay-per-view event at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.

“It’s going to be a packed house,” Stephen Thompson said.

“Wonderboy” is returning to the octagon after more than a year on the sidelines. He was scheduled to meet Besam Yousef at UFC 154 before a knee injury forced him to withdraw from the event. His original opponent at UFC 160, Amir Sadollah, was forced to withdraw with his own knee problem. It’s far from the first time the injury has altered his path.

Eight years ago, Thompson “tore every ligament in his left leg” while kickboxing. He had won handfuls of kickboxing titles in the mid-2000s, and once worked with welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre on his striking. But the injury forced him to rethink his career. That’s when MMA came into the picture.

“When I was a kid, I did kenpo, kickboxing and jiu-jitsu,” he said. “But when I started competing in kickboxing, I put that on the backburner to focus on my striking. I got to make the decision where I wanted to go, and I said, ‘Let’s do MMA.’”

Thompson debuted in the UFC with a highlight reel knockout of Dan Stittgen at UFC 143, but learned just how grinding MMA can be when he fought bruiser Matt Brown at UFC 145. Although he made it through three rounds, Brown dominated the fight and won a decision. It was his first professional loss in his new sport. 

He’s now tasked with rebuilding himself against Burrell, who he anticipates will be a tough opponent. 

“He’s a boxer from Philly,” Thompson said. “He’s got a wrestling background, and he loves to throw some bombs, so it’s going to be a war.”

And while his family is no longer fighting his battles for him, they’re certainly in his corner.  

For the latest on UFC 160, stay tuned to the UFC Rumors section of the site.

MMAjunkie.com Radio broadcasts Monday-Friday at noon ET (9 a.m. PT) live from Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino’s Race & Sports Book. The show is hosted by “Gorgeous” George Garcia, MMAjunkie.com lead staff reporter John Morgan and producer Brian “Goze” Garcia. For more information or to download past episodes, go to www.mmajunkie.com/radio.

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