Josh Thomson – ‘My Title Shot with Melendez’
By Justin Bolduc
‘The Punk’ Josh Thomson recently took some time to talk with PDG about his upcoming title fight with Gilbert Melendez, his recovery from a shoulder injury, MMA paydays and Frank Shamrock.
PDG: What are your thoughts on your upcoming fight against Gilbert Melendez?
Josh: I think stylistically it is going to make for a great fight for everyone. I think the feeling out process between him and I is over – we’ve trained together plenty of times, and we know what each other brings to the table. It’s going to be a great fight – and it needs to be. I think it’s a fight the people have been waiting for and it is time for us to put up or shut up. It’s been a matter of time. It’s been pushed up in terms of when we wanted it to happen – like me coming off my shoulder injury, I would have liked a warm-up fight and he would have liked a couple more fights after his loss to get his mind right and really focus on his training schedule. I think in this situation, it is just something that happens and you have to put it all out there and fight. You’re a fighter and you are paid to fight, so you have to fight.
PDG: Were you able to take anything away from [Gilbert’s] loss to Mitsuhiro Ishida – especially considering your wrestling ability?
Josh: Actually no, not at all. Yes, I could take something away from it, but I don’t fight like Ishida. I don’t fight that boring style fight – all [Ishida] did was fight that boring, wrestling style fight. He tried to take him down and he wasn’t very active. He out-wrestled Gilbert – that is all he really did. There was really no striking, no damage done – Gilbert wasn’t hurt at all. I don’t fight like that. If I wanted to go ahead and fight like that, then yeah I could take a lot from it – but that’s not my style. I think if I fought that way it would make for a boring fight, and I would rather not fight at all than fight a boring fight. Maybe I will test my wrestling with him in this fight, but you never know. I fight fights to fight all-around. I consider myself an actual true mixed martial artist. I am a wrestler, a kickboxer – I have a lot of fights by knockout and a lot by submission. I have fights by TKO on the ground and on the feet. I pride myself on being a mixed martial artist, so I can fight the fight anywhere I want. I think that is what is going to happen in [the fight with Gilbert].
PDG: On the flip side, one of your losses was against Clay Guida, who is similar to Gilbert with very good wrestling, excellent cardio, and a relentless style. While the fight was a couple of years ago is there anything you can take from it into this fight?
Josh: I look at it in two ways though – I don’t have to worry about Gilbert greasing himself up… I know Gilbert is game and he is going to fight on a professional level. He is a true fighter and someone that if he can’t win the right way then he’s not going to win. I respect that Gilbert is going to come to fight and bring his A-game. It is going to have to happen that way. I think it is going to be a great fight. I’m going to pull out every trick I can, every submission I can – every little thing I can do on the feet and on the ground. I think he is going to do the same. Yeah, a lot has happened since that fight with Clay, but there were a lot of circumstances in that fight as well that changed the outcome of that fight.
PDG: You have some big wins over guys like “Razor” Rob McCullough, Hermes Franca, and Harris Sarmiento; but you’re not really held up as highly by the fans as Gilbert or Clay or some other guys. Do you see this fight with Gilbert as your opportunity to gain mainstream recognition?
Josh: Not really. I look at Gilbert as another fight and I need to put 110% into training. If I start adding that pressure of I have to perform better just because it is Gilbert then it is going to be a long night for me. I have to treat it as he is an opponent – not someone I have trained with before, but someone I need to beat. Nothing really changes in that perspective. I just really need to focus on this one fight, him, my gameplan, and how to beat him – and that’s it.
PDG: We haven’t seen you in quite a while – since I believe September, and here we are in May… aside from the injury which has obviously kept you out, what else have you been up to?
Josh: [The injury] was the whole thing. What happened after September – the [fight at the Playboy Mansion], I was out training and hurt my shoulder, so I was out rehabbing it through the holidays. I then tried training with it and it was feeling good, then I came down here to train with Rob McCullough to help him train for Jamie Varner and I re-injured it – I actually dislocated it. From that moment on I had the surgery about two days later and have spent time since January 13 trying to really get it healthy again. Really, I’ve had time off but it has been time rehabbing the shoulder and doing anything I can to make it stronger. It has been a long process and we were just trying to make sure it gets back on track.
PDG: Yeah, you have to do it right. Right now we are seeing a lot of guys not taking care of things properly and it is causing a lot more lay-offs then they would need.
Josh: You know what it is that in the process of doing all this before fighters had jobs on the side with insurance through that job. They were all making 2, 4, and 6 grand a fight – so it was almost like a second tier thing. But now the money has gotten a lot better and money is in place to push yourself and be “that” fighter, so guys quit there job and they don’t have insurance. So when they get hurt now they need that next paycheck so they rush into it and train and train and train. Now they are sitting around saying they can’t sit around because they have to make money. The money goes fast because they are living like rock stars generally like I did a little bit, and the money goes fast when you have no income and you have doctor’s bills. I think that is what is happening with these fighters because they don’t have a steady job, this is their job, so the longer they are out the more they have to make.
PDG: As far as money goes, do you see the progression of fighter pay as where it should be now, and still going up, or do you think that it should still be higher?
Josh: I think the top ten to twenty lightweights – and not just lightweights, is that they aren’t getting paid as much as the bigger guys are, and that kind of sucks considering we have such a stacked division. We put in twice as much work into training then the heavier guys do. Also our career life expectancy is a little shorter as well. I’ve never seen a thirty-five or forty year old lightweight – I don’t know what that would look like. But you see forty year old heavyweights all the time because they don’t fight at that fast pace and push themselves on the conditioning and the cardio as much as the lower guys do. It doesn’t seem fair that the heavyweight guys get a lot more. Granted, today’s society likes to see people get knocked out and the established fans like to see big knockouts and lightweights generally don’t deliver that. It’s hard to have lightweights mainstream a card. The fact that Gilbert and I are the main event of this card is something we have to show that we can headline the card, we can pack the seats, and we can put on a good performance. There is a lot of pressure on us to actually step up and perform.
PDG: You’ve been with Strikeforce since the beginning. How do you feel about the growth of the promotion – especially with the Frank Shamrock ordeal that forced a team-up with Elite XC and Showtime!?
Josh: I think if anything that helped both organizations a lot. We’ve been able to produce some mainstream fights for them – like [Phil] Baroni against Frank and Cung [Le] against Frank. Those are probably the two best fights that Elite XC has actually had. I haven’t seen any other cards from them that were all that great, and Strikeforce has had some great events but has not been on TV – so the partnership shows the mutual talent they have and in the future of crossbreeding the fighters and having them face each other will possibly sell tickets. Maybe after I win the title from Gilbert and if Yves [Edwards] takes the title from K.J. [Noons] maybe we’ll see a rematch between us. I think that would be a great fight – two champions rematching like it should have been for the UFC title back then. I think Strikeforce has done a good job bringing in real top level fighters like Gilbert and myself, and Cung and Frank. They always had the big names able to back them. Elite XC did it a little as well is [Robbie] Lawler and Renzo [Gracie] – that is when the Frank debacle happened. They’ve pulled in a few more top guys too but they were trying to find that diamond in the rough. It takes a while to find those guys and build them into the scene, whereas Strikeforce pulled in guys like Cung and myself who already had names that they knew would perform.
PDG: One of the bouts you mentioned which is an obligatory question while I have you is the Cung Le and Frank Shamrock bout. You were quite vocal with your thoughts before the fight – so what do you think now that it is over?
Josh: I think Frank played right into our hands. I think he underestimated Javier and myself and our ability to know Frank. I think he thinks that we weren’t going to be prepared – that we didn’t know him or understand him. After the Baroni fight he didn’t know that Baroni didn’t train with us – Baroni trained with Xtreme Couture for that fight. We encouraged him to train with us given the fact that Javier used to train with Frank, I used to train with Frank, and “Crazy” Bob Cook used to train with Frank. Those were things we encouraged Phil to do and he didn’t, but everyone chooses their own path. Cung decided to go with Jav and myself and it obviously paid off. I think Frank underestimated the two of us and how well we know him and how stubborn he can be. We figured out what he would do. Even if we didn’t figure that out there were other ways to stop him. Cung executed the gameplan and I don’t think he could have done it any better than he did. It was a great fight. No matter how much Frank and I don’t like each other I’ve never really had anything against him until he started putting out videos about me. Those are the only times I’ve had anything against him. I always thought he was a nice guy until he proved to me otherwise. When this all is said and done, no matter how much I have against him personally he is always entertaining to watch fight, he always shows up to fight, and he’s a great fighter – you can’t take anything away from him and how tough he is. I will always give credit where credit is due, and he is deserving of that.
PDG: At one time he was basically the premiere fighter in MMA; how do you think he stacks up now if he was looking for the big fights against quality opponents instead of the big fights for money?
Josh: I think he stacks up well. Had he fought a smarter fight against Cung, I think it would have been a closer fight. But he picked the wrong gameplan which we figured he would. It cost him the fight. I think him against any top 185-pounder would be a good show. He is always going to have trouble fighting a wrestler. Good kickboxers though, he can find a way around. If he uses his skills to get the takedown and the submission I think that he can always be a top guy. Genetically he is a gifted athlete. It just depends which Frank shows up. You just never know what you are going to get with Frank.
PDG: Given that, would you still be willing to fight Frank?
Josh: In a heartbeat. Anyone who says they wouldn’t fight Frank would be a fool. Just from every perspective – from a promotional perspective, a money perspective, and the dislike we each have for each other would bring the marketing perspective. I would never say no to a fight with him ever. I’ve trained with him and he showed he was a tough fighter, but lately what he’s shown is he is not the same fighter as he used to be in the conditioning area. He used to train his conditioning 110% but he’s faltered a bit in his last couple fights. He looked like he was fatiguing in the Cung fight, especially in the third round – and he was definitely fatigued after the Baroni fight. He had to be carried out. I think it shows he is training the technique and training smarter, but he’s not training the conditioning as much. I think with my style and me being a smaller guy I could push the pace in the process of not getting caught.
PDG: Shifting over to [American Kickboxing Academy], you guys are really coming together as one of the top teams. How do you feel about the direction that the team is heading in and the growth of everybody at this point?
Josh: I think right now the growth is jumping to a whole other level – and possibly a whole new level by September. We’ve been bringing in a lot of green guys, but while they are green they are just willing to learn and have given up their lives to dedicate their life to fighting. They are showing the veterans respect in that they are not going to try to go out there and one-up us, they want to show they are learning but do it in a safe way so we don’t get hurt. I think having those types of fighters around is helping everyone’s game from the better guys to the rookies. It’s just been wonderful having all the new guys come in and we’re getting better by the second and they are getting better by the second.
PDG: Do you have any sponsors you’d like to mention?
Josh: I always want to say thanks to Knoxx Gear and Tapout.
PDG: To wrap things up is there anything else you’d like to say?
Josh: If you are looking to get tickets for the Strikeforce event on June 27 then check out www.joshthomson.com and you can contact me on there to get tickets for the event.
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