Josh Thomson is the Strikeforce Lightweight champion, and is set to face Gilbert Melendez in a rematch for the belt on August 15th.
However, before he gets ready to unleash fury on Melendez, he took a second to talk to Bleacher Report to let fans know how his training has gone, who he feels is an unknown gem at American Kickboxing Academy, and how he feels about the Michael Vick case.
Nick (www.bleacherreport.com): Josh, how’s training camp been going for this rematch with Gilbert, and how do you feel you’ve improved since the last time you met?
Josh: You know, I’d say I’ve gotten better since the last time we met, but given the last two injuries, it’s like a knocking off the ring rust thing you know?
I can say my training has improved in the gym, but with the ring rust, we’ll see what happens. I think it’s going to be fun. I feel good. What are we, eight weeks out now?
I feel okay and everything feels good. I’m already sparring four rounds and looking to move up to five next week. So I think sparring five rounds eight weeks out is pretty impressive.
I think I’m in good enough shape and I’m working out with good guys and tough guys, so their pushing me. Should be good!
Nick (www.bleacherreport.com): You’re 16-2, a very impressive record taking into account the guys you’ve faced off against. Half of those wins have come via submission techniques. Do you prefer to stand and bang with your opponents, or do you prefer to take them to the ground and submit them?
Josh: Well, I consider myself a pretty technical striker, so, but the one thing I lack is knockout power. I’ll hit you two or three times, I have good speed, and I’m pretty accurate with my punches, but I guess you could say I lack knockout power.
It’s really, well, submissions just seem to fall my way. I’m pretty good in transition and I’m good in the scramble, and those kind of things.
I’ll take a win any way I can get it. If it’s a cut, you know, some fighters like to say they like to win a certain way, but as a fighter a win is a win.
Nick (www.bleacherreport.com): You train with American Kickboxing Academy (AKA) with guys like Jon Fitch, Josh Koscheck, and Cain Velasquez. Who would you say is the one fighter to watch coming out of that camp and why?
Josh: The one fighter to watch coming out of the camp...well, we have Luke Rockhold.
[Luke] just fought last weekend in the Strikeforce Challenger, or Challenge, something like that up in Kent, WA. He had a first-round submission over Cory Devela. He’s going to be very impressive. He’s really tall and really lanky, good grappler for 185, super strong. I think he’s the one to watch with Cain Velasquez. There’s no secret about him anymore.
Other than that, the other guys have already set their name and presence in their organizations. I mean, [Jon] Fitch has, and “Kos” is trying to make his comeback right now, or get back on track anyways.
I think he’s back on track, and I was sparring with him last week, so he should be good.
The other guys, ones like Bobby Southworth and Trevor Prangley are trying to find a contract right now, fighting without contracts so we’re trying to give them motivation and give them time.
All of our people are ones that other camps try to avoid fighting. They don’t want to fight AKA guys so they try to find other guys to fight.
Nick (www.bleacherreport.com): I understand you’re not looking past your fight with Gilbert, but if you do manage to maintain the title, what are your plans towards the future?
Josh: I really can’t tell you what’s going to happen after this fight. There are some other things I have in the works right now, with some T.V. stuff you know? S
o, I’m kind of leary and focused on this fight right now, and winning this fight. My agents in Hollywood are scheduling things for me after this fight, so I really have no concern. I’
Nick (www.bleacherreport.com): I’m just curious. Where and when did you get your nickname “The Punk” and how much do you like having that title?
Josh: (Laughs) You know, when I was younger I was like, ah, whatever, but now that I’m older and I’m kind of like not so much like that anymore, it gets kind of old. (Laughs)
I think when everybody starts they wish they had a really cool one, and I guess I stuck with that one. You don’t really pick your nickname, you just kind of get what the guys call you in the gym and that’s what I got stuck with and that’s what I got to live with. I’m cool with it, whatever, not a big deal.
Nick (www.bleacherreport.com): I happened to glance over your Myspace page and found a touching piece about dog fighting, and how against it you are. Do you have a dog yourself, and what do you think of the Michael Vick case?
Josh: I’ve spoke a little bit on the Michael Vick thing. Hopefully his plans are to change when he comes out.
I think everybody does stuff and they learn, and I hope he learned. I can’t really say things because people do things and they make a lot of money and their young and their stupid and I’ve done things too in the past and really can’t get nailed for that so hopefully he’s changed and there’s nothing you can do.
Regardless, yes I do have a dog. He’s a little English Bulldog about 75 pounds, a little fat guy. His name’s McLovin, and he’s doing well. He’s always sleeping and it’s kind of funny right now when I’m doing training and trying to rest during the day, but he’s fine.
Josh: Yeah, I have a lot of weaknesses. You know, I think weaknesses come and go in different fights.
Like with the Gilbert fight, focused a lot on my wrestling, focused a lot on my standup and trying to stuff the takedown and get up from the bottom.
I think my submission game went out the backdoor. I wasn’t able to finish a rear-naked [choke] that I had on tight, and just things like that.
Little things kind of come and go with each fight and you train for each person. At least, that’s the way I do anyways. Lots of people say they train and train and I think that’s a bunch of s*** because if you’re going against a wrestler, you’re going to increase your training for wrestling.
You’re going to do more things to stop a wrestler in your training camp. So don’t tell me-you know, a lot of people tell me they train the same way for every fight. That’s a bunch of crap.
My camp changes me depending on the fighter. So if I’m going up against a wrestler, I’ll bring in a good wrestler. We have guys like Josh Koscheck and Fitch and these guys.
So I try to focus, you know, on taking them down and striking on them and things like that. This will be my third training camp training for him, you know, but other than that, I think it’s going to be a great fight.
Nick (www.bleacherreport.com): You fight at 155 pounds, and there’s so many worldwide contenders in that weight class. Who would you like to fight at 155 and why?
Josh: You know, I don’t really worry about things like that. There’s a good chance that after this fight I’m trying to talk to Strikeforce about opening up a 145-pound weight division and me dropping down to win the belt, and defending the belt at both weight classes.
Those are things I’m interested in trying to do. Going up, obviously, is something I probably don’t want to try to do, given that Jake’s there. Jake Shields is there at 170 and 185, so, I train with Jake and he’s just a phenomenal person and super tough.You saw what he did against Lawler.
But, I feel I can drop down. I’ve fought there before, so I’m pretty sure I can drop the weight and be able to fluctuate between divisions hopefully.
Nick (www.bleacherreport.com): Now Josh, there is a 145-pound weight division in the WEC. Have you ever considered going over there to take a shot at the Featherweights over there?
Josh: No, only because the relationship between the UFC and Strikeforce, as they don’t have the best relationship (laughs).
It’s hard enough between the Affliction and UFC competition that I don’t see myself going to the WEC. I’m very happy with Strikeforce, and I’m very happy with that, so I’m just hoping that Strikeforce would open up something at 145 and that’d be great.
Nick (www.bleacherreport.com): Now do you feel that the best competition for you is over at Strikeforce, given that the WEC’s Featherweight class is packed with talent?
Josh: No, I think it’s different all the way around. DREAM has some of the best competition, and Strikeforce has some of the best competition.
Between me and Gilbert, and I believe Eddie Alvarez is with Strikeforce, given the fact that he just won the tournament over at Bellator.
Those type of things where we have top competition over here at Strikeforce, so why would I leave?
Granted, the UFC had BJ [Penn], and Kenny Florian and Frankie Edgar, and Sean Sherk, and Dream has [Tatsuya] Kawajiri and Gomi, you know, and those guys. If you think about it, our weight class is so spread out throughout the world so anywhere you go it’s going to be a tough fight.
BJ’s still probably the best at 155 and I think if he stayed at that weight class that he would be one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world and I think he’d be on top of 155.
I think if he just stays at 155 I don’t think there would be any debate about who the best fighter in the world is. Pound-for-pound that is.
Nick (www.bleacherreport.com): Thanks for the lead into my final question for you! Who do you have in the upcoming BJ Penn/Kenny Florian matchup and why?
Josh: I have BJ in the upcoming fight. I think BJ is too strong and hits too hard in that weight class.
I think Kenny poses a lot of problems and if anyone can beat BJ it’s Kenny. I just think that BJ’s experience with bigger, heavier guys is going to be showcased and I think it’s going to show that BJ is the top guy. But you know, we’ll see.
That’s why they fight the fight. You never know what’s supposed to happen.
Nick (www.bleacherreport.com): Well Josh, I appreciate you taking the time out of your busy schedule to come and talk. Is there anyone you’d like to shoutout before you go?
Josh: I always like to say thanks to the guys at AKA. Fitch, Koscheck, Swick, Trevor Prangley, you know, all the guys at AKA. Javier Mendez, Dave Camarillo, you know, Bob Cook. You know, I really appreciate them and my clothing company that I’ve been working with, so thanks to everyone!
Nick (www.bleacherreport.com): Thanks Josh, and good luck in your fight against Gilbert Melendez on August 15th.
Josh: Alright, thanks bro!