TORONTO â€” If all goes according to plan for UFC welterweight contender Stephen Thompson, he’ll have his arm raised in victory after his upcoming title fight in Las Vegas. And he wants Blue Jays slugger Josh Donaldson to be the one to wrap the belt around his waist.
Thompson was cageside with Donaldson to watch UFC 206 on Dec. 10 in Toronto. He said they broached the idea with the UFC president that night.
“I talked to Dana White and he said he could do that. He said, ‘I’m down,'” Thompson said. “So they shook hands on it, Josh and Dana White. Whenever I win that title, he’s going to be able to put it around my waist. So we’re taking his word for it and hopefully we’ll make that happen.”
Thompson is scheduled to fight champion Tyron Woodley on March 4 in the main event of UFC 209 in Las Vegas. It’s a rematch of their bout from last November in New York, when Woodley retained the title after they fought to a majority draw.
Donaldson, a longtime mixed martial arts fan, posted some kind words on Twitter about Thompson’s performance that night. The two met up for a workout at a Toronto hotel before UFC 206.
“I didn’t know he was a big UFC fan until then,” Thompson said in a recent interview from Simpsonville, S.C. “I didn’t really know he actually knew some actual MMA techniques. He trained in boxing, kickboxing, things like that. We worked out together in Toronto and it was fun. We became good friends after that.”
Donaldson said he was excited to get a chance to work out with Thompson and then watch the card with him.
“We just did some leg kicks and some punches and working on some technique, and different kinds of combinations and stuff,” he said in a recent interview from Orlando. “In my opinion he’s one of the best strikers in the game.
“So it was awesome to be around a person who was not just good, but great at what he does and have him show you a few things.”
It will be a short turnaround for Donaldson if he’s able to make it to Las Vegas for UFC 209. The Blue Jays have a matinee against the Minnesota Twins in Fort Myers, Fla., on the day of the fight and an afternoon game against the Tampa Bay Rays the next day in Dunedin, Fla.
Donaldson, the 2015 American League most valuable player, should have plenty of time to fly to Las Vegas for the main card, which doesn’t start until 10 p.m. ET. The main event usually begins around midnight ET.
“Most of the athletes that I’ve worked with have been only martial artists,” Thompson said. “So it’s good to see a look on other people and how they take their sport. It’s really cool. Obviously he’s very good. He loves his sport, he’s got a passion, he lives it, eats it, and breathes it. So it was pretty cool to get to know him that way.”
The Blue Jays will kick off their regular season April 3 at Baltimore.
With files from Canadian Press reporter Victoria Ahearn. Follow @GregoryStrongCP and @VictoriaAhearn on Twitter.
Gregory Strong, The Canadian Press