Two-time UFC welterweight title challenger, Stephen Thompson has claimed that the #6 ranked contender, Michael Chiesa is more deserving of a title siege against Kamaru Usman than former interim champion, Colby Covington — despite the promotion’s intentions to make a rematch between the two.
Thompson, who is currently ranked at #4 in the official welterweight pile, is booked to feature at UFC 264 on July 10. against recent title challenger, Gilbert Burns — in what could come as a potential title-eliminator at 170lbs.
With champion, Usman continuing to steamroll contenders such as Burns and two-time foe, Jorge Masvidal this year already, there appears to be a log jam at welterweight to some degree, with many of the top five contenders in need of just one more eye-catching victory before earning their respective title shots.
Thompson is booked to tackle Sanford MMA staple, Burns this summer, while the #3 ranked, Leon Edwards takes on veteran fan favourite, Nate Diaz at UFC 263 on June 12. in Glendale, Arizona — after a minor injury forced Diaz out of a scheduled co-main event this weekend at UFC 262 in Houston, Texas.
Recently outlined as a possible next title challenger by his manager, Ali Abdelaziz — streaking contender, Chiesa has been identified by Usman as a next potential title chaser, with eyes initially fixed on a potential landing pad at UFC 263 which now appears unlikely given the fact that card already contains two-title fights.
UFC president, Dana White had made his intentions to book Usman vs. Covington II prior to the former’s successful title defence against Masvidal in April, claiming that the first pairing of the two at UFC 245 back in December of 2019 was one of the greatest fights he had ever witnessed.
Usman, however, doesn’t appear to be singing from the same hymn sheet as White, questioning what Covington has done to earn a potential rematch with him, given the fact he’s only competed three times in the last three years. “I’m not going to say I don’t want the fight,” Usman said when speaking about a potential rematch with Covington. “I want all the smoke, It doesn’t matter who it is. I want all the smoke. At the end of the day, it’s what have you done to earn this?“
“Your claim to fame can’t be, ‘Oh, I went five rounds and then the guy broke my jaw and finished me,’” Usman explained. “That can’t be your claim to fame. (Jorge) Masvidal went five rounds with me too. Tyron Woodley went five rounds with me. You can’t sit around and fight three fights in three years and expect to get a title shot when I just fought three times in nine months. The champion can’t be the most active guy in the division.“
Speaking with LowKick MMA reporter, James Lynch, the above-mentioned, Thompson gave his thoughts on what could be next for Usman — claiming that Chiesa would likely deserve a title shot over Covington, who dropped an eventual fifth round knockout loss to the champion at UFC 245.
“I don’t know, man — he’s (Kamaru Usman’s) already fought Colby Covington,” Thompson said when asked who would deserve a title challenge first between Covington and Chiesa. “He hasn’t fought, (Michael) Chiesa. You know, so we saw what happened the first time that they fought (at UFC 245). And I think Colby Covington has had one fight (since) and that was (against) Tyron Woodley.“
“I would like to see that fight with Chiesa,” Thompson explained. “I mean, I think both fights are very interesting as well and we can see what kind of improvements Colby’s made. I mean — he’s an intelligent guy too, I don’t think he’ll fight him (Usman) the same (way. He might end up using some of the wrestling this time, and not have to stand there and get his jaw broken like what happened last time. Either way, it really doesn’t matter. You know, we’ve already seen that happen. So why not give Chiesa a shot? Go for it, man.“
In the midst of an impressive two-fight winning run himself, a victory over Burns would likely see Thompson earn his third title tilt under the UFC’s banner. Featuring at UFC 244 in November of 2019, Thompson handed the now-surging, Vicente Luque a one-sided unanimous decision defeat, before taking home another relatively comfortable unanimous judging win over Geoff Neal last December at UFC Vegas 16.