Gentle giant Thompson wants the UFC big time

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It’s fair to say that Oli Thompson is a big man. Standing at 6ft1in and weighing around 250lb, this physically monstrous individual has the same dimensions as the average black bear.

Thompson, an Eastbourne resident who trains at the First Generation gym, has turned his hand successfully to the sport of mixed martial arts.

His massive physical frame belies the undeniably nice gentleman he is beneath the surface.

As I meet this fighting professional for the first time, I am greeted by him simply sipping a cup of tea and doting on his young daughter.

“My whole day revolves around getting her to school,” Thompson says to me as I finally manage to drag him away for an interview.

“After that’s all done I’ll go to the gym twice a day for a couple of hours each time, working on the basic fitness as well as all the different techniques you need to be a successful mixed martial artist.

“I try and do that six days a week. It is pretty intense but I always give myself Sundays off to spend with the family. If I didn’t do that then I’d probably go crazy!”

It is this unbreakable dedication to his training that has made Thompson a master of each sporting craft he’s tried.

A county-standard rugby player in his youth, he found his first real success in the lonely pursuit of strongman competition, winning the title of Britain’s strongest man in 2006.

Never one to simply relax, the ever-ambitious Thompson then thought he’d have a go at MMA.

Just over two years after his first fight, he became the British Heavyweight champion.

“I’ve always preferred individual sports because the focus is totally on you.

“After the strongman stuff I could have gone back into rugby but I was no longer at the skill level I wanted to be at. I always want to be the best at something and if I’m not then I’ll go and do something else.”

This all-or-nothing attitude has brought Thompson plenty of success throughout his sporting career so far, and the 31-year-old will have to be at his best once again to hold onto his title after his next fight on June 25.

His opponent Mark Potter is a former British title challenger in the sport of boxing, and has since earned a fearsome reputation in the world of bare-knuckle fighting.

As you’d expect though, Thompson isn’t fazed one bit.

“He’s bound to be a good boxer, but my aim with every fighter is to take them out of their comfort zone.

“If I can close the distance between us, take him down to the ground and nulify his punching then I’m confident I will retain my title.”

Thompson knows the importance of this bout.

A win over the highly-rated Potter will really mark his card in the chaotic world of British MMA.

So he’s planning to spend a month in America training with some of the world’s best fighters in preparation for this potentially career-defining fight.

It could be the first step towards international recognition for Thompson, who has a clear plan to establish himself in this most competitive of sports over the coming years.

“My main aim is to get a couple more wins over here and establish myself undisputedly as the best in the country.

“After that, I’m hoping that one of the big organisations such as the UFC will take a chance on me and give me a couple of fights.

“ If I can do that, then I’ll walk away from the sport with my head held high.”