Stephen Thompson dismisses notion UFC is punishing him with Shavkat Rakhmonov fight

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Stephen Thompson insists he likes the Shavkat Rakhmonov matchup.

Thompson (17-6-1 MMA, 12-6-1 UFC) takes on Rakhmonov (17-0 MMA, 5-0 UFC) at UFC 296 on Dec. 16 in Las Vegas. The fight announcement comes a couple of months after Thompson opted not to fight an overweight Michel Pereira at UFC 291.

“Wonderboy” was angling for a fight with former champion Kamaru Usman, but instead drew an undefeated contender. Considering Thompson openly said he’s not interested in facing Rakhmonov in the past and even turned him down, questions arose on whether this is the UFC getting back at him for electing not to fight Pereira in July.

But with Rakhmonov now ranked one spot above Thompson in the UFC’s welterweight rankings, “Wonderboy” disagrees.

“No, I don’t think so,” Thompson said on The MMA Hour. “I wanted Usman because Usman called me out, but the UFC already had something set up for him. I wanted somebody that was ranked above me. Most of the guys I’ve been facing have been ranked behind me – the Geoff Neals and the Vicente Luques, Pereira, which, you let these guys come up and they should be able to make weight. I wanted somebody ranked above me. It didn’t matter really who it was.

“The Usman fight didn’t happen, so there was Shavkat. He was supposed to fight (Kelvin) Gastelum, which I think Gastelum got cut so he didn’t have anybody. I saw him on social media. I know he’s ranked above me, and it just worked out for both of us. It was like a year-and-a-half ago maybe, the UFC wanted me to fight Shavkat, and to be honest with you, I didn’t even know who he was at the time.”

Thompson was not paid his show money for Pereira, but recently revealed that the UFC will add on what “they owed” him for the Pereira fight to his purse for the Rakhmonov boutt. When Dana White was recently asked about Thompson’s comments, he appeared to scoff at them.

For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for UFC 296

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