There was a scare last week when rumors that Josh Thomson injured his knee and would be forced to pull out of his title fight with Gilbert Melendez were circulated, but those rumors were unsubstantiated.
Thomson will be showing up for the rubber match against Melendez at Strikeforce: Barnett vs. Cormier. Thomson took some time to talk to Bleacher Report about the fight, among other things.
Thomson is making a quick turnaround from his last fight, a decision victory over K.J. Noons in early March. Prior to the fight with Noons, Thomson hadn't fought in over a year. Despite the quick turnaround, Thomson relished at the chance at a rubber match with Melendez.
"I wanted the opportunity to fight him [Melendez] for the trilogy, and it presented itself and here we go," Thomson told Bleacher Report. "I think it's going to be a great fight."
The last fight with Melendez, Thomson lost in a five-round war, but he is looking to fight more like he did in their first meeting, when the five-round decision went in his favor. Win or lose, though, he's ready to go five rounds for the third time with the Stirkeforce champ.
"Every time you fight Gil you've got to prepare for the full five rounds," Thomson said. "I've had years of training with him, I've fought him obviously twice and he's really hard to finish on the ground."
"I'm not looking to have a war like we did for the second fight, I'm really kind of looking to pick him apart like I did in the first fight, frustrate him, get in, get out and land my shots," Thomson said about how he wants the fight to play out.
The title fight came Thomson's way after his decision win over Noons, a victory that saw him very critical about his performance and conditioning. Thomson made some tweaks to his training to try to take it easier on his body, but ultimately he felt that it affected him negatively in his fight with Noons.
With the Noons fight behind him and Melendez on the horizon, Thomson was able to adjust his training once more to where he feels he has it just about right.
"I was more upset [about the Noons fight] because I had changed my training and I wasn't in good enough shape to really push and get the submission," Thomson said. "I'm leaning a little bit more to my old style of training."
"In the middle of the day I was doing a Crossfit style, plyometric style workout three days a week, and so that was killing my body to the point where I just felt like I was so depleted, I had no strength and I wasn't able to do the things that I needed to do to be competitive.
"Even in sparring, 135 pounders and 145 pounders were double legging me," he said. "I got rid of that whole plyometric style workout altogether and I started cutting back the run in the morning, I think I was somewhat burning the candle at both ends."
Now that his training is under control and injuries aren't keeping him on the sidelines, we should see some vintage Thomson this Saturday night against Melendez. Many fans weren't excited by the fact that Thomson was called upon to challenge Melendez for the belt, and even the Strikeforce lightweight champion expressed a bit of his disappointment with having to fight Thomson.
I'm interested in this fight simply because it is the rubber match and the previous two fights between these guys were decent tilts.
Thomson understands where Melendez is coming from, though.
"He's [Melendez is] looking for somebody to boost his stock, and it's definitely nobody in Strikeforce only because given the circumstances we're not ranked like the guys in the UFC," Thomson said.
"I kind of understand his dilemma, he's 30 years old, he's in the prime of his life and this is his opportunity," he continued. "It kind of puts me in a weird situation because I want to feel like I'm fighting the best Gil and if he's not motivated to fight me then it makes me feel a little less motivated to be honest."
Besides a select few on the Strikeforce roster, Thomson is right—the big names are the guys fighting in the UFC. He would like to see some of the UFC guys come over to Strikeforce.
"It would be nice to have a Donald Cerrone over here to fight or, you know, Anthony Pettis," Thomson said. "Then we could kind of get a feel like, OK, I'll fight your guys, get us in there with opportunities for us to go over to the UFC and vice versa, I think it would just be great to be able to fight in both places.
"I feel like right now, we go over there to fight, we're fighting on their home turf, it's like when the Pride guys all came to the UFC they all got smashed, and then when the UFC guys went over there they weren't successful, either. I think it's just that home turf, that feeling like it's your promotion, that your fighting in your own promotion gives you that confidence."
Fellow American Kick Boxing Academy (AKA) teammate Daniel Cormier is one of those guys who will probably get a chance to head over the UFC. He is fighting Josh Barnett for the heavyweight Grand Prix this Saturday, but the Strikeforce heavyweight division is being dissolved after that fight, and many Strikeforce heavyweights have already made the transition to the big show. Obviously for Cormier, going to the UFC with a win over Barnett would be huge.
"Obviously his wrestling is second to none, probably the best in MMA right now," Thomson said. "I definitely think his chances are looking really good in that division [UFC].
"He's already knocked out 'Big Foot' Silva, he's got a lot of good wins, I believe he is undefeated 9-0, and if he beats Barnett the sky is the limit for him with just nine fights to come and beat someone with 50 fights, and that's just impressive."
The AKA family was struggling a bit a few months back with the departure of Josh Koscheck and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu coach Dave Camarillo, but things are back on track according to Thomson.
"AKA, everything is good, everything was a little rough for a minute there because of all the media and negative media we were getting, but overall everything is good" Thomson said.
"We have a new Jiu-Jitsu coach Leandro Viera being affiliated with the Checkmat, him and his brothers are the founders of Checkmat, and it's one of the best Jiu-Jitsu programs out now in the world. It's great to have them here, it's great to have Leandro at AKA, he's been making big improvements with the guys."
Maybe Thomson will have some new tricks up his sleeve. We'll see on Saturday. It will be interesting to see what kind of T-shirts he wears into and out of the cage. Visit Thomson's Facebook page and you can see that he wears his political opinions on his sleeve.
Last time out, Thomson created a bit of a stir in Ohio with his "Hope isn't Hiring" T-shirt. Don't expect anything this time, though.
"No, I did it in Ohio cause Ohio is a swing state and I was really hoping to push it and push for Ohio to let everyone know that people from California can be conservative as well. But in California, I might get jumped after if I try to leave the stadium with that on," he said.
T-shirt or not, injury or not, Thomson will be showing up to fight on Saturday, and if the guys over at AKA are posting videos of him in training and punking him like in this one that was posted yesterday by Showtime, I think it's safe to say that Thomson is alright.
Leon Horne is a writer for Bleacher Report and is part of the B/R MMA team.