The Strikeforce heavyweight grand prix finale is rapidly approaching, and with it, the rubber match between current lightweight champion, Gilbert Melendez and number one contender, Josh Thomson. The two lightweights have been locked in title bouts since mid 2008, and will finally finish the trilogy on May 19. In a recent TapouT Radio interview, Thomson discusses the upcoming bout, as well as future political aspirations.
Stephie Daniels: What changes will you make to enable you to win this fight with Gilbert?
Josh Thomson: Not a whole lot is going to change. I'm really going to have to mix it up, like I did in the first fight. From the feet to the ground, just back and forth. I've got to fight a lot smarter than I did in the second fight. in that one, I didn't fight smart. I went out there and tried to slug it out with him. I was just excited to be back fighting again. I'd had a 15 month layoff, and I was just excited to be back in the cage, fighting in front of my hometown. He was coming off of a three or four fight win streak, so he really had his confidence going for him. This time, I've just got to fight smart, look to pick him apart, and we're going to go from there and see what happens.
Stephie Daniels: In the first fight, the tone was set by your kicks. The second fight lacked those kicks. You had sustained another injury to your leg, but fought anyway. Are you 100% going in to this fight?
Josh Thomson: I had broke the same bone twice in my leg three times. I was trying to be really cautious. I decided I would go out there and try to beat him with my hands. In the back of my mind was, 'If I kick and he blocks, is it going to break again?' It really plays with your mind.
Also, when you don't kick a lot in training, because you're avoiding injury, it's like you're fighting the way you normally train. I wasn't throwing it a whole lot in training, so it was hard to do it in the fight.
Everything right now seems to be good. I've cut back on my training a lot, especially the intensity of it. I was training three times, sometimes four times a day, waking up at 5:30 AM until 9 PM at night. It was just too much on my body, all that wear and tear, especially now that i'm getting older.
Guys like Randy Couture and Dan Henderson, they've been fighting for years. I was reading a little bit about how they train, and how to change your training as you get older, and things that they've done. I've learned that is harder to stay in shape. You've just got to maintain it more.
I think the best thing that happened was that I rolled the KJ Noons fight into this fight, and decided to fight right away. I was already in pretty good shape. I was really down on my performance from that fight, but the fact that you can get a win off feeling like you didn't fight a great fight, and building off that, and also building off my conditioning from there, it just made it a lot easier for me mentally.
Stephie Daniels: There was some speculation about whether this would be the main event, but it didn't turn out that way. How do you feel about that?
Josh Thomson: Realistically, I'm just happy I get to fight. I mean, it wouldn't be the first time that we've been overlooked and passed up to be the main event. I think Gil and I are both kind of used to it by now. It's just a matter of us going out there and fighting.
Stephie Daniels: Do you feel secure in your home at Strikeforce, and that it will still be around this time next year, or are you looking past that?
Josh Thomson: I'm not really looking past anything right now. I really can't tell you what's going on in the office at Strikeforce, because i don't know. I think when the UFC bought Strikeforce, I was a little more into what was going on, but now that the UFC has taken it over, and is running it, I don't really pay attention to it now.
It's a lot harder now, because before, with Coker and those guys living here in San Jose, but with Dana and all those guys being in Vegas, it's not like I can give them a call and say, 'Hey, let's go have lunch.' Not to mention that they're running two major companies right now.
It's different now. I couldn't tell you if they're going to be around in a year. As long as they're here, I'm going to be fighting my ass off.
Stephie Daniels: With the fighter ranks thinning so much at Strikeforce, who would be next , should you get the victory?
Josh Thomson: I really don't know. With a win, I really couldn't see anybody else but Pat Healy. I'm on my second to last fight on my contract, so we'll really just have to see what happens. With a win, I would like to see the possibility of a carry-over fight, and maybe fight the champion of the UFC.
I'm not looking past Gil at all. I've got to focus on him and see what goes on from there.
Stephie Daniels: Gil seems to have really tightened up his game since your first fight. Do you see any weaknesses you can take advantage of now?
Josh Thomson: I think all the same holes in his game are still there, from when I beat him the first fight. He's a brawler, but he lacks the speed to beat me. I think getting in, getting out, picking him apart is key.
If you watch the first round of the second fight, I was supposed to get in, land strikes, and get out, and I think I was doing that. I got a little cocky when I thought I had rocked him with a left hook, so I rushed in, and it cost me. I ended up getting caught and he dropped me. From that round on, I felt like I was just fighting from behind. I went out there, winging it, and just fought a crazy, dumb fight.
I think mentally, I have matured.I know I need to stick with the gameplan, and get out there and beat him to the punch. I can outstrike him. We saw it in the first fight, and I plan on doing it again in this one. I need to mix it up, and keep him guessing. From kicks to punches to takedowns, my elbows, whatever it is.
I think Jon Jones opened up a lot of eyes about how effective elbows can be from standing. That's a big part of our plan that we've been working. We'll see what happens when it comes fight time.
Stephie Daniels: Do you put much emphasis on fight tapes?
Josh Thomson: Not really. I mean, I watched his last fight. After he fought me the first time, he knew he had to change his gameplan and the way he fought, because I think I exposed him. When you come forward like that, someone is finally going to take it to you, and that's what I did.
The second fight, he had changed his whole game. Now, he's more of a stand your ground, take the center of the ring counter puncher. He has very little offense, and to be honest, if I wanted to stay on the outside, I could potentially make it a very boring fight, but that's not me.
The old Gilbert is not the new Gilbert. I mean, he's exciting, but he's not the one that's going to come after me to try and get the win. It's going to be me going out there trying to take his title. He's proven that. He's fine with listening to the crowd boo, and just stand in the center of the cage, trying to counter punch, and I'm not fine with that. This is the entertainment business. It's not the boring business. I plan on going out there and taking the fight to him.
Stephie Daniels: Are you comfortable to stand in the pocket and trade with him?
Josh Thomson: Of course. That's obviously not the game plan. I have to go in there and keep my hands up. You can't knock him. The kid hits hard, regardless of what I've been able to take from him before. There's no way around it, and I can't say anything else. The kid hits hard, and he's got a big right hand.
He fights a smart fight, and I can't take anything away from him. He's a great fighter. He usually comes in with a pretty good gameplan, and he knows how to implement it. I've just got to stick to mine, and hope it's better than his. That's what it all comes down to.
Stephie Daniels: I know you've been asked a lot, but tell me about your future political aspirations.
Josh Thomson: I grew up on the east side of San Jose. It's a pretty poor area, and I've noticed that on the whole east side, there's no sports programs for the kids and the education levels are down. The parents now have to pay for all the sporting programs even through the schools. Once the government started getting involved in the schooling programs, the kids are getting less of an education, and less sports than they did in the past, yet we're paying more in taxes.
Americans are putting more money into our government than ever, and I feel like it's a waste. I think we need to take government out of our schools, and as much as we can, out of our lives, and start pushing it back to the cities and towns, and start letting them govern themselves a little bit more. We can let our government worry about protecting our borders and protecting Americans and country, instead of everything else.
As far as me in politics, there is a possibility in the future, but i would like to keep it more in the area that I live. If I got the opportunity to serve on city council, something that represents the city and town I live in, I definitely would love to.
I want to know that my kids are living in an area that I have some sort of influence of what I feel is best for them. I would like to have some sort of influence in the schools in the city that I live in. That would be awesome and a worthwhile pursuit.
Follow Josh via his Twitter @TheRealPunk