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UFC 217's Stephen Thompson thinks Dana White's title plans could change


NEW YORK – Add Stephen Thompson to the list of fighters who are not all that certain that UFC President Dana White’s current plans for the welterweight title will materialize.

Thompson (13-2-1 MMA, 8-2-1 UFC) returns to the octagon this Saturday at UFC 217 after two consecutive closely contested but ultimately failed attempts at taking the 170-pound title from champ Tyron Woodley. He meets Jorge Masvidal (32-12 MMA, 9-5 UFC), who in turn was most recently seen dropping a split decision to recent title contender Demian Maia.

Now ranked No. 2 in the USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA welterweight rankings, Thompson won’t say in so many words that he sees the encounter with No. 9 Masvidal as a No. 1 contender fight. But he’s clear in that he’s not done with his pursuit for gold.

“I’m looking at this (like) if I go out there with a go win over Jorge Masvidal, it’s going to keep me in that running,” Thompson told MMAjunkie today during a media day. “I know Dana White said that the winner of Robbie Lawler and (Rafael dos Anjos) will get the next shot. But sometimes that doesn’t happen. And what he says doesn’t come to fruition.

“So my goal is to go out there and put on a show. I’m not giving up on that title, so hopefully that’s in the near future again.”

Thompson and Masvidal meet on the pay-per-view main card of Saturday’s UFC 217, after prelims on FS1 and UFC Fight Pass. The event, which is capped off by three title fights, takes place at Madison Square Garden in New York.

Thompson isn’t the only one hoping White has a change of heart. No. 5-ranked Colby Covington had been actively campaigning for his own stab at champ Woodley for quite some time – a case that was probably helped by his unanimous-decision win over Maia in Saturday’s UFC Fight Night 119 co-headliner.

Of course, it wasn’t just his fifth consecutive win that warranted Covington some added attention last week. The welterweight has also been under fire by some peers and even UFC officials after his inflammatory comments about Brazil and its population.

So where does Thompson stand on Covington’s recent displays – in and outside the octagon?

“I thought it was a good performance by him,” Thompson said. “He defended the takedown very well. Do I think that was 100 percent Demian Maia? No. I don’t think that was the Demian Maia we’re used to seeing.

“But even that said, he did put on a good performance. And he’s putting on a show. He’s making people talk, so hats off to the guy.”

On Saturday Thompson meets Masvidal in a bout that’s intriguing on different fronts. Other than its possible implications atop the talent-filled 170-pound division, Masvidal’s penchant for striking battles might also bode well with Thompson’s karate-based style.

On the other hand, Masvidal has also been known to go on the counter-attack and get pickier about his shots on occasion. So which one does Thompson foresee going down: the showstopper or the more technical, calculated affair?

Well, the way he sees it, Masvidal is called “Gamebred” for a reason.

“He’s always game when he walks out there and steps out in the octagon,” Thompson said. “He comes forward. I believe he’s going to be ready to throw down. And so am I. I’m ready to put on a show for the fans here in New York City, kind of how I did the last time.”

To hear from Thompson, check out the video above.

And for more on UFC 217, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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