What we have become accustomed to hearing from a fighter before a fight is the usual “I’m so ready, I’ve had the best camp of my life” and only hear about what really went down during training camp after a fighter loses a bout and is trying to make sense of it all.
However, main event fighter for FOX UFC Saturday that takes place in Chicago, IL, Josh Thomson has been very blunt about his camp experience, and he doesn’t sound too happy.
“I’ve gotta say it’s probably been one of my worst camps I’ve ever had in my history of fighting,” Thomson said to FOX Sports heading into his fight against former WEC and former UFC lightweight champion Benson Henderson. “Just being honest.”
“I think what happened was four weeks with (Anthony) Pettis then I took a week off because the fight was canceled and then I got the call to fight Benson (Henderson) so I thought, don’t break the routine too much, jump back into camp and I think what happens when you have such a long camp it just starts dragging on and on and on. You’re just not feeling it anymore. You’re losing motivation, whatever the reason being. It’s been a long, just distracted kind of camp, it’s been really weird.”
Thomson was originally set to face off against UFC Lightweight Champion Anthony Pettis last December. However, the champ suffered a knee injuring during training that sent him into surgery and has him on the bench for the better part of this year. Not long after, Thomson was approached with the offer to fight Benson in a five-round main event.
Like most things in martial arts its all about timing. According to Thomson it is the timeline of his training camp that has been the biggest hump to get over. He spent the first month preparing for Pettis, one of the most dynamic strikers MMA has ever seen with a nasty ground game, to flipping the script and matching him up with Benson, who is nearly the exact opposite being a wrestler with a solid striking game.
When his bout with Henderson finally comes it will have been almost three and half months of training, a terribly long time to hold for a fight. This has no doubt stripped him of some energy and focus both mentally and physically.
“You really don’t want to over train so you try to dial it back, and then you dial back and then you’re like maybe I should pick it back up. As you pick it up you’re like man, maybe I dialed it back too much so you start doing more. Then you’re not sure if over trained or if you just didn’t train enough because your mind starts playing tricks on you. It’s been a long camp. It’s been a total of about 14 weeks all together even with that week off,” stated Thomson.
Another factor that plays a huge part in his preparation is the lack of sparring partners due to the Holidays. A time which is always hard for fighters to train through. And even at a high class training camp such as American Kickboxing Academy it doesn’t help if the walls of AKA are empty.
“Any time you take a fight during the holidays you just have no one to train with,” Thomson said. “Your gym becomes a ghost town. Basically from Thanksgiving to New Year’s there’s no one in the gym and we’ve got one of the biggest camps in the world. Our gym it was like a ghost town. For about two or three weeks there right before Christmas, my only grappling partner was Luke Rockhold so there’s just a difference.”
Thomson is a very experienced veteran of the sport with 26 professional fights under his belt. He must gain some sort of comfort to know that he can always resort to his experience when the tough gets going.
For example, Thomson was able to recall back to his bout with Gilbert Melendez back during his days at Strikeforce in which he gave one of the best performances of his career.
“I look back at my first fight with Gilbert (Melendez) and all this same stuff happened. I got staph (infection) for that fight, I got sick for that fight, I actually got a little banged up at the beginning of that camp. A bunch of little things happened for that camp and I still came out and fought probably the fight of my life.
“So people will sit here and say ‘oh he’s already making excuses’ and that’s what they were saying before that fight. There’s no excuses, I’m just telling you like it is. The thing is sometimes it makes me rise to the occasion so that what I’m hoping happens. I can’t say it’s going to look pretty in this fight, but I’ve got to go out there and get the ‘W’ no matter what happens.”
A fighter doesn’t necessarily have to have a picture perfect training camp to defeat their opponent. They only need to be better on that one night for 25 minutes. And as long as Thomson can keep his focus, there is a good chance that the very talented fighter could come out on top.
“This is what I tell everybody — I don’t have to be better than Benson every single day of my camp, I’ve just got to be better than him on one night,” Thomson stated. “So I’m not really concerned about everything that’s happened during this camp.”
Let’s see if Thomson has what it takes to take down “Smooth” Benson Henderson on the 25th.
(all quotes via FOXSports.com)Tags: benson henderson, FOX UFC Saturday, Josh Thomson