Stephen Thompson is as confused as anyone else when it comes to the booking of Rafael dos Anjos vs. Colby Covington for the UFC interim welterweight title at UFC 225.
Thompson, who meets Darren Till in a pivotal bout at UFC Fight Night 130 next weekend in Liverpool, doesn’t think dos Anjos and Covington’s June co-main event in Chicago should be contested for a belt. Current champ Tyron Woodley is still recovering from a shoulder injury (and surgery) he suffered in his most recent title defense last July, but he’s expected to return to action within a few months.
“I don’t think so at all,” Thompson told BloodyElbow.com. “If [Woodley]’s out for another year or two, then probably yeah, I think you should. But if he’s saying he’s gonna be back in July or August, there’s no reason why you should be fighting for an interim title.”
“Wonderboy” believes creating a second title at 170 pounds takes away from Woodley’s championship, which he earned in July 2016 when he stopped Robbie Lawler in the first round at UFC 201.
“It almost diminishes the value of the title, because they’re just throwing it out there — it’s like, ‘You can fight for an interim title, sure,’” Thompson said. “I don’t think they should be fighting for an interim title. If [Woodley] says he’ll be back in July or August, then just say, ‘Hey, the winner of this will fight for the title.’ I don’t know what the UFC is playing at or what their thinking is when it comes to the interim title. But they’re just like, ‘You can fight for it anytime. Anybody can fight for an interim title.’”
If the UFC is set on creating an interim welterweight title, Thompson thinks he should be the one fighting for it. He’s ranked No. 1 in the official UFC standings, while dos Anjos and Covington are No. 2 and No. 3, respectively. Ideally, he would have liked to square off against dos Anjos in a title eliminator.
As for why he’s not getting a No. 1 contender’s bout next, Thompson said it has something to do with the already-scheduled Till fight. He said since the UFC is trying to build up the Liverpool market and because Till wanted to fight him, it was a smart booking for the promotion.
Plus, Thompson said, he’s already fought Woodley for the belt twice (he went to a draw with Woodley in November 2016 and lost a majority decision in March 2017) — dos Anjos and Covington are rather new blood at the top of the 170-pound division.
“I think it’s just politics,” Thompson said. “I think that they are trying to make that market out there (in Liverpool). And he’s calling me out, so why not make that happen? I fought for the title twice, and I guess they don’t want to see it again until I prove myself again. I think that’s just what the UFC is thinking.”
Thompson does think he’ll eventually get another crack at the title, simply because he doesn’t see anyone in the top five beating Woodley besides himself. But when he receives that title shot comes down to who wins between the interim champ — dos Anjos or Covington — and Woodley in a undisputed title bout later this year, he said.
Thompson, who’s rooting for dos Anjos against Covington, said if dos Anjos wins the interim belt and goes on to dethrone Woodley, he would fight for the title immediately after the Till fight. But if Woodley successfully defends, he’d probably need to take one or two more fights first — which is OK, because he’s far away from retirement and considers himself a “young” 35-year-old, he said.
“It all comes down to this fight, whoever wins between Colby Covington and RDA and Tyron.”
UFC Fight Night: Thompson vs. Till airs live on FS1 on Sunday, May 27th at 1 PM ET/10 AM PT.