Joaquin Buckley is preparing to fill in for Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson and fight Shavkat Rakhmonov at UFC 296.
Earlier this year, Buckley officially moved down from middleweight to welterweight. The decision has proven to be potentially life-changing, as back-to-back wins against Andre Fialho and Alex Morono have made him a legitimate threat in the division.
Buckley is now over a month removed from his unanimous decision win against Morono, and he’s ready to get back into the Octagon. During an exclusive interview with Mike Owens of MiddleEasy, ‘New Mansa’ had this to say about wanting to fight in December:
“I still plan to fight [in December]. It’s just like is it going to happen, though? I got a lot of people always coming up to me like, ‘Hey, bro, when you getting back out there. I’d love to see you in December.’ I really don’t have an answer to like giving them a yes. It’s just like a wait and see.”
The problem for Joaquin Buckley is that the last few UFC events in 2023 are mostly filled up. With that said, there are several high-profile welterweight matchups in December, and Buckley is preparing to fill in for a fan favorite he believes might pull out.
Joaquin Buckley believes Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson won’t be fighting Shavkat Rakhmonov at UFC 296
On December 16, the last UFC pay-per-view of the calendar year, UFC 296, goes down inside the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
The main card features the following three ranked welterweight matchups – Leon Edwards (c) vs. Colby Covington (#3) in the main event, Shavkat Rakhmonov (#5) vs. Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson (#6), and Vicente Luque (#8) vs. Ian Garry (#10).
During the previously mentioned exclusive interview with Mike Owens of MiddleEasy, Joaquin Buckley stated he’s preparing for UFC 296 because he believes ‘Wonderboy’ will pull out:
“For December 16th, I could definitely do that, easy work. We looking at Shavkat Rakhmonov and Wonderboy [Thompson]. I mean no disrespect to Wonderboy. He’s always been a tough guy and always willing to take a fight, but for some reason, it’s telling me he ain’t gonna show up to that. Something tells me that Wonderboy ain’t gonna show up to that one, so let’s get ready.”
“Fighters no fighters, man. To be honest with you, Wonderboy for the longest time didn’t want to fight Shavkat, and I’m guessing the UFC gave him a good little bag in order to get up in there. Regardless, this sport is all mental, so for some reason, I’m throwing up a lob. I don’t think Wonderboy is gonna be able to make it to that cage for whatever odd reason, so let’s get ready.”
Joaquin Buckley is not ranked in the UFC welterweight division. Therefore, a short-notice win against the undefeated Shavkat Rakhmonov would likely skyrocket him into the top ten.
The question is, will he get the opportunity? Well, that will be determined by Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson.
Watch Joaquin Buckley’s interview with Mike Owens of MiddleEasy below: