Former Strikeforce Lightweight Champion Josh Thomson is about to close an exciting trilogy with current Strikeforce Lightweight Champion Gilbert Melendez. The first championship bout went to Thomson and the second to Melendez. The rubber match takes place May 19th as the co-main event of Barnett vs. Cormier in San Jose, California. Some fighters like Chuck Liddell have stated that they frequently thought about revenge type fights and rubber matches. For Thomson this isn’t really the case and he thinks Melendez feels the same way.
“It’s something I think the two of us have had in the back of our minds”, Thomson said. “We knew it was going to play out this way. I think the two of us know we are the best in Strikeforce if not two of the best in the world. It ends up being that we knew we’d meet again, whether it was in Strikeforce we didn’t know. When the fight was offered it was for the title so I definitely was interested. Had it not been for the title I could see myself not as interested, but not so much putting it off. Any time you get offered a title match you can’t really say no”.
Josh has been fighting injuries throughout his career. As a matter of fact, when they were initially scheduled for a rematch Thomson broke his ankle in training prior to the fight. Lately Thomson has been focusing on healing, and paying closer attention to what his body is telling him.
“Everything is feeling okay right now. I had wrist surgery right before the KJ fight in March so that was kind of what the lay off was then. We’ve been rehabbing it and trying to get it better as quickly as we can before the fight. Things are coming along and hopefully, knock on wood, no more injuries”.
This fight is Josh’s chance at another run as Strikeforce champion, but while some might call this his biggest fight to date he disagrees.
“Is this my biggest fight? No. Not at all. My career is not close to being over yet. I feel good in this camp. I didn’t feel good last camp and this one has helped me realize that I still have a little bit of juice left in the box. We’re going to ride things out and see how they feel, but it definitely won’t be my biggest fight to date”.
His training at AKA is not easy and he spends a lot of time there before a fight. Thomson believes the time spent is more than worth it.
“I spend 4 1/2 hours a day at AKA. Sometimes five and if I push it six. On the days that I push it longer to six hours the workouts aren’t as intense, but they’re just longer. That’s including cardio and everything pushed together in training at the gym. We’re peaking this week, but next week we’ll start ramping down. We’ll do shorter workouts, but more intensity. A hard five rounds of sparring and grappling, and then hard cardio and then call that a wrap. We do that all next week, but this is the week where hit our peaking days. We get in all the training we can”.
While he may not believe that this fight his biggest Thomson doesn’t deny its importance. He also knows the luxuries that fighting in his home town afford him.
“It is nice that we started the trilogy in San Jose and we’re going to finish here. It’s a rare opportunity to close this chapter in our life this way. It’s stamping this part of our fight career and moving on. The fans locally have been to both fights and I think they’re the ones that benefit from the third fight being here. Plus fighting at home gives you the luxury of just being able to sleep in your own bed and being able to keep your routine. Forrest Griffin talks about it all the time how he hates traveling for a fight. You spend six to eight weeks on a strict training regimen and diet. That last week you leave and it all goes to hell. You’re scrambling around trying to find the foods you can eat. I mean you’re finding grocery stores and buying junk that you can just get by with. You don’t have like a real stove and things like that. I’ve had the luxury of fighting at home over the past few years because Strikeforce is a San Jose based company. When I fought KJ in Ohio it was like a rude awakening. The time will probably come soon when I fight for the UFC again and I will have to travel everywhere. I’ll have to get acclimated and in to a new routine”.
A call from the UFC is definitely on his radar and if he is called Josh is prepared to answer.
“Yeah I’ve never been one to turn down a fight. I think I proved that in the Kawajiri fight. I was actually slated to fight Aoki on two weeks notice and the week I show up in Japan they changed it to Kawajiri. Once you’re there it doesn’t matter regardless. You make a good offer and you ask me to fight somebody, like Jardine said, we’re fighters that’s what we do”.
The lightweight divisions in most major organizations are stacked with talent. Josh knows that match-ups with the world’s top fighters will continue for the rest of his career. Taking a look at the UFC’s roster, Thomson believes he knows his biggest challenge as well as Melendez’s.
“I think honestly the guy who would give me the most trouble would be a guy I train with, Gray Maynard. He trains now at AKA and we’ve had the luxury of Tyson Griffin coming to train last week and he’ll be staying for a couple more. Those guys have given me an extra push. But yeah, guys like Gray who hit hard, are hard to take down, and are great wrestlers those are the guys who would give me the biggest problem. As for Gil, he would have the hardest time with Frankie. Edgar would get in and get out before he could throw. Gil’s not the fastest guy on his feet, but he’s got power. I don’t think he has the power that Gray Maynard has and I don’t think he has the explosiveness and speed that Gray has. He does have the conditioning to push through for four and five rounds. So does Edgar, and Frankie would get in and get out before Gil could get off. Frankie would just do a repeat of what I did in the first fight, which was get in and get out and obviously score the win on Gil. Even if they did get to the clinch Frankie’s real good on foot sweeping and knee taps. That’s the type of wrestling that would keep Gil guessing and that fight would be a hard fight for him”.
Josh has watched his style evolve over the years, and believes that Melendez’s has changed primarily in his Strikeforce run.
“Since I beat Gil that’s when he made he made a lot of his changes. He started standing in the middle and he stopped chasing people. That’s when he changed his style of fighting. Before that he was really aggressive and straight forward. He would take three or four shots to deliver three good ones. Now his style is to take the center of the ring, counter striking, and try and take you down. He’s changed his style to be more of a counter striker if you watch him now. He kind of pushes forward, but he never gets over-zealous. He doesn’t walk in to things anymore”.
Preparing for this fight has been a reminder to Josh of what it takes to keep getting the big fights, and what it takes to beat Melendez.
“With the injuries I haven’t really had a lot of time to focus on trying to change my game and make it better. I’m trying to get it back on par like when I beat him the first time by utilizing all my weapons. In the second fight with him it was like boxing only and I didn’t really kick. I hadn’t really been practicing kicking, and my wrestling was off so was my jiu jitsu. I want to start mixing it up and use my punching and kicking together. I also want to use my wrestling and put my submissions to use. The outcome will be different this time”.
Josh Thomson faces Strikeforce Lightweight Champion Gilbert Melendez on May 19, 2012.Tags: featured, MMA NEWS, Strikeforce, strikeforce news, ufc news, UFC on FOX, UFC on FOX 2, ufc on fox 3, UFC on Fuel, UFC on FX