Coming off the first knockout loss of his MMA career, Stephen Thompson is taking a patient approach to his return to the Octagon.
"Wonderboy" received a 60-day medical suspension, including 30 days without any contact, following his TKO loss to Anthony Pettis at UFC Nashville in March. As a result, the 36-year-old can't compete in his hometown of Greenville at UFC Fight Night 154 on June 22.
"I really wanted to be on that South Carolina card, obviously," Thompson said in a media scrum backstage at UFC 238. "Me and my dad worked really hard to get them to come to my hometown. But the Nashville fight didn't go the way I wanted it to ... So we're looking at, probably, fall."
Thompson (14-4-1) has lost three of his last four fights, with his lone victory coming against Jorge Masvidal at UFC 217 in November 2017. The Upstate Karate product is targeting UFC 244 at Madison Square Garden for his return date.
"I would love to get on that Madison Square Garden card - that would be awesome," Thompson explained. "That's kind of like my home away from home, anyway."
He added, "I've known a lot of guys to get knocked out and try and jump back out there, which is what I wanted to do, and (they) barely get clipped and (are) not the same anymore. So I just want to make sure (my brain) is all right before I step back out there."
UFC 244 takes place Nov. 2 at Madison Square Garden in New York. No matchups have been added to the event.
Despite losing back-to-back fights for the first time in his career, Thompson wants to test himself against the best.
"I was actually wanting somebody, anybody, in the top five, to be honest with you," he said. "(Rafael dos Anjos), (Santiago) Ponzinibbio, I don't know if (Darren) Till has anything coming up. Anybody in that top group would be awesome. ... But, man, I'm itching to bits to step back out there and do it again. I don't care who it's with."
Thompson noted that he's resumed training. "I'm not doing any heavy lifting or heavy sparring or anything, but doing mostly skills and stuff," he said.
Watch the full media scum with Thompson below and subscribe to theScoreMMA Youtube channel here.