Josh Thomson is preparing for a battle he wanted, against the man he wanted. It’s his chance for a shot at taking over the reigns in the lightweight division when he becomes the first man to challenge Anthony Pettis for the UFC Lightweight Championship in the main event at UFC on FOX 9.
Back in July during the UFC Fan Expo, Thomson (20-5, 1 NC) was a guest of MMA Fight Corner and said Pettis (17-2) was the only man standing between him and a shot at Benson Henderson. There was nothing he wanted more than to prove which of the two of them was the true #1 contender.
At the time, Henderson was the champ and Pettis was ready to tangle with Jose Aldo for the UFC Featherweight Championship, which never came to fruition. Thomson had just returned to the UFC after an eight year hiatus from the organization and made a statement by becoming the first man in MMA history to ever finish Nate Diaz with strikes.
Since then, the landscape of the division has changed. Pettis is now the lightweight champ and was expected to defend his belt for the first time against Canadian TJ Grant who was next in line for a title shot. However, Grant is still suffering from concussion like symptoms and won’t be able to fight Pettis. Thomson now has the opportunity of a lifetime ahead in battling the newly crowned champ for the strap on Dec. 14 at the Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento, CA.
“I definitely think a fight with Anthony, it holds a higher prestige I think,” Thomson said. “Given the fact that not only is he the champion now, but it makes it a lot more appealing obviously to fight someone of his caliber, and his talent, and stuff like that for something that’s this important – for the title. It’s great.”
Pettis is best known for his flashy striking, but also proved he’s just as slick on the ground when he submitted Henderson to become the champion. Knowing how well-rounded Pettis is in every aspect of the game has Thomson stepping up his training as well.
“You can’t just beat him in one area. You’ve got to beat him in a bunch of different areas. You’ve got to be able to pick him apart, on the feet, on the ground, everywhere,” Thomson stated. “Realistically, I pick my fights on who I want to fight. Or I make a push for the guys I want to fight and based on what I think the crowd would like to see. Guys like me and Pettis, guys like me and probably TJ Grant, these guys, they have that go forward mentality like Gil and I. I know what guys are going to make me look good and give the fans an opportunity to watch the fight of a lifetime. For me, those are the things that I focus on.”
“When I think of a guy I want to fight, I only bring up the names that I think the fans are going to get the best benefit out of it,” Thomson added. “For me, Anthony was the next step up to the title. Now he has the title, but I was asking to fight TJ also because I like TJ’s style. He comes forward, he’s aggressive. Those are the type of fights that are going to make fans want to come watch a fight again. Not only that, but it gives me an opportunity to fight the kind of guys that you may potentially get a bonus for. Those are the type of guys you want to fight.”
Putting on a war with Fight of the Night potential is nothing new to Thomson who has had three epic title fights with Gilbert Melendez in Strikeforce. In his Thomson-Melendez 3, he nearly brought home the title in a back-and-forth fight that went the distance. The split decision went Melendez’s way, but left fans wanting a fourth battle.
As the San Jose, CA native gears up for a title fight just a couple of hours away from his hometown, Thomson doesn’t feel like he has any advantage because he’ll be close to home. In fact, he’s expecting the fans to be rooting for Team Alpha Male’s fighters since the training camp is based there. Actually, Thomson admitted he’s relieved that he isn’t fighting right in his own backyard.
“People don’t understand. Yeah, it’s nice to have the home crowd, but it is stressful fighting near home and in your home and those type of things. There’s a lot of pressure that goes along with it.”
There’s no doubt that Pettis will give Thomson the challenge he wants. But the 35-year-old can’t wait to put it all on the line and give the fans a show.
Tickets go on sale next Friday, October 4 at 10am PT to the general public. Visit UFC.com for more details.