At UFC on FOX 7, several fighters out of the now defunct Strikeforce promotion will get their chance in the spotlight against UFC opponents. For American Kickboxing Academy’s Josh Thomson, his return to the Octagon will not only be in his own backyard, but against an opponent with whom he has some familiarity.
On April 20, in San Jose, CA’s HP Pavilion, UFC lightweights Nate Diaz (16-8, MMA) and Josh Thomson (19-5, 1 NC, MMA) will trade leather. For Thomson it’ll be his first fight back in the UFC since he departed the organization following a loss to Yves Edwards at UFC 49 in 2004.
In 2006, Thomson went on to fight for Strikeforce and picked up signature wins over Pat Healy and Duane Ludwig. Then in 2008, Thomson defeated Gilbert Melendez in a battle for the Strikeforce lightweight title becoming the last man to hand Melendez a loss. Melendez and Thomson have fought three times for a title thus far, each time putting on non-stop, action-packed wars.
In their last fight prior to the promotion folding, Melendez retained the Strikeforce belt in a closely contested and controversial split decision victory over Thomson. Now, he’ll face off against a close friend and training partner of Melendez’s, Stockton, CA’s own Nate Diaz. Diaz is also coming off of a title loss to UFC Lightweight Champion Benson Henderson at UFC on FOX 5.
“I think it’s a good fight to come into the UFC with. I think everyone knows who Nate is given that he just fought Benson for the title. Everyone knows who I am from Strikeforce because Gil and I have fought three epic battles in Strikeforce and all three times for the title. So everyone knows who I am in Strikeforce and so, I think it’s a perfect matchup. Both of us are coming off of title losses and I think we’re getting ready to work our way back up to a title shot in the UFC.”
Despite the fact that Diaz and Melendez have trained together for years at Cesar Gracie’s camp and have very similar strengths, Thomson knows Nate will be a completely different challenge.
“Stylistically, they’re similar as far as the boxing and stuff, but I think that Gil hits a little bit harder. Nate throws punches and combinations more and I think that Nate’s better on the ground. So, stylistically I think Nate’s a little bit bigger of a threat for me than Gil is.”
By the time Thomson gets into the Octagon for the fight, it will have been nearly a year since he last fought. Even though he trains at a high level daily, Thomson said the long layoff could be an issue for him.
“Yea, I think people who say ring rust isn’t an issue really have never fought,” Thomson said. “So, I think it definitely is an issue and even if you are staying up with your training, there’s nothing like getting in there and fighting at a pace like a real fight. I mean you try and spar and do all those things on a regular basis, but you’ll never push yourself as hard as you do in the real fight. The ring rust is definitely something that plays a factor. I really couldn’t tell you if it’s going to be that big of a factor until I get in there. And it being my first fight back in the UFC, it’ll be interesting to see how I feel when it comes to showing up to the venue.”
The 34-year-old fighter’s had 25 fights in the span of twelve years and knows he can’t continue to push his body to its limits forever. Though he’s not even close to hanging it up yet, “The Real Punk” wants to make sure that when he does retire, he does it in the UFC.
“I started my career there in the UFC and so it’s nice to kind of come home and basically finish my career there. You know, I’m hoping my career ends here and it should. Given my experience, just my ability, the well-roundedness I have as far as being a fighter I feel that I’ll probably end up finishing my career here,” Josh said. “It’s kind of nice. It’s nice to be home, it’s nice to be back here. I was fighting in the UFC before, it was cool. So it kind of makes me feel good about that.”
Thomson also revealed to MMA Fight Corner that before he decides to hang it up, he hopes to have a chance to even the score in a fourth collision with Melendez.
“I mean honestly, I feel that it’d be stupid for the UFC not to have us fight at least one time in the UFC, especially for the title. I think it’d just be surreal to have given the fact that the last fight was so controversial and if he wins this fight, and I win this fight, I think it’d just be the next step for the two of us to fight against each other for the UFC title.
“Just given that the last fight was so controversial, I still to this day I get probably I’d say close to three or four tweets, or Facebook messages, or whatever, just saying that I got robbed. People commenting to him basically like tagging him on this stuff and I feel kind of bad because it’s kind of disrespectful. But people are entitled to their opinion and I feel like if the opportunity, if it presents itself, of course,” Josh continued.
Still Thomson knows he’s not in a position to call out anyone just yet. But if the call came to fight Melendez a fourth time, Thomson said he wouldn’t hesitate to take it.
“Like I said before, it’s not really up to me who I fight. If the UFC says ‘Hey I want you to fight this guy’ then, if he’s next in line, he’s next in line. But when you to the level where we’re at, you really shouldn’t be turning fights down.”
Diaz vs. Thomson is a part of the main card at UFC on FOX 7. The main event is a title tilt pitting current UFC lightweight champ, Henderson, opposite Strikeforce’s last champ, Melendez. The action takes place from the HP Pavilion in San Jose, CA on April 20th.
Watch the full interview with UFC lightweight Josh Thomson on MMA Fight Corner here:
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