In the foothills of South Carolina, things move a little bit slower.
Parents who went to high school together many years ago reminisce as they pick their own kids up from school now. People ask you how your mother is doing and someone may tell you their life story at the grocery store. The small towns feels old-fashioned in some of the best ways. Everyone knows each other and everyone knows Ray Thompson and his "Wonderboy," #StephenThompson.
From competing in local martial arts tournaments and watching Dragonball Z, to fighting at the highest peak of the UFC, Thompson is still a prominent figure in the local community, and keeps doing what he's done for many, many years now: Teaching kids every day at Upstate Karate in Simpsonville, South Carolina. It's this commitment, upheld even with a championship-level training schedule, that led to him being awarded the key to the city upon his return to his hometown.
To a crowd outpouring with respect, support and overwhelming love, Thompson gave a heartfelt speech to all the families and citizens that know him. Wearing the wounds of a five-round war with UFC welterweight champion #TyronWoodley, it didn't matter to anyone there that Thompson didn't take home the belt at #UFC205. To everyone huddled together in the cold to cheer him on, his contribution is as good as gold.
Representative Garry R. Smith continued, "They know your heart. They know that you care about this community. And the thing that we're so proud of you about, is you're not just a good fighter, you're a very good person."
Thompson may not have become a champion on November 12th at Madison Square Garden, but he did earn Woodley's respect, and proved to everyone he is truly at the top of the division--something the proud people of Simpsonville already knew, and a status he already had in their eyes.