On Saturday night, Josh Thomson sat at the dais in the bowels of Chicago's United Center with his right arm in a sling. The tape and gauze wrapped around his thumb a clear sign that something was amiss. Beneath the baseball cap bearing the insignia of his sponsor, an abrasion under his left eye was visible. What wasn't visible were the tormented thoughts running through his head as he answered questions about his fighting future following his split decision loss to former UFC lightweight champion Benson Henderson in the main even of UFC on Fox 10.
Social media was ablaze with opinions that the decision should have gone the other way, in Thomson's direction. Appearing at the post-fight press conference, Thomson was asked his opinion on the decision, which he deemed inconsequential, "My opinion doesn't matter. I lost, that's my opinion of it. The only opinion that matters is the three people around the cage, and they decided it didn't matter. So, that's it."
Two of those people, judges Sal Damato and Brian Puccillo scored the fight for Henderson. The third, Gabriel Sabaitis scored the fight for Thomson. The two judges that scored for Henderson had it 49-46 and 48-47. Sabaitis' score read 48-47 for Thomson.
The split decision defeat was Thomson's second controversial decision loss in three fights. His other loss during that run was a split decision loss to Gilbert Melendez in May 2012 when fighting for Melendez's Strikeforce lightweight title. When asked if it was tough to stomach those close and controversial losses, Thomson said that he understood how the Melendez fight went the way of the champion, but Saturday's fight, "This fight I felt like I won. I won with one hand. I beat the former UFC champion. That's what I can't stomach."
The hand he fought with was his left. Thomson's right hand was injured sometime during the first round. The thought of stopping the fight due to the injury never entered Thomson's mind, as he said, "We're just going to keep fighting, that's what we get paid to do."
With that mindset, he toughed it out, lasting five full rounds against Henderson, but the injury was not something he could just ignore, "It was really bugging me," Thomson said. "It was just irritating to know that the things you need to do, you just can't do. You train this long, such a long camp, and I see my title shot, just f---ing disappearing."
That long training camp was mentioned a second time when Thomson was asked what was next for his professional MMA career, a career that began in January 2001, "This might be it," Thomson said. "I'm no spring chicken, two practices a day for 16 weeks, that's a full NFL season, and I get hit more than the guys in the NFL, and they get paid way more.
Everybody needs to know when there time has come, and maybe it's not mine right now, but I also don't want to be that person that fights until their done, and they end up not knowing when it's time to quit."
Thomson acknowledged that maybe it was the emotion of losing such a close fight that had him thinking about walking away from the sport, and he did stop short of definitively stating that he was hanging up the gloves. Instead he said his plans were, "I'm just going to go home, I'm going to talk with my family, and talk with my coaches and I'm going to probably sit down with (UFC president) Dana (White) and (UFC matchmaker) Joe (Silva) and see what direction we want to go. That's what it really comes down to, just kind of getting the whole team together and just seeing what the plans are for me in the UFC, and we'll make our decisions from there."
Whatever that decision is, Thomson was clear on one thing, he would remain involved in the sport of MMA in some form. He even throw a bit of an offer out there, claiming that he would be more than happy to sit at the commentating desk for Fox.
If Thomson's career is indeed over, he will leave MMA with a professional record of 20-6-0-1. More importantly he will not walk away from the sport a bitter, angry man, "I was ranked No. 1 or No. 2 in the world in 2003, 2004. I have no regrets in my career," Thomson said. "This has been great. I've fought in all of the biggest organizations in the world, I have no regrets, this is awesome."
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