Josh Thomson enters the biggest fight of his career Saturday night, his third go-round with Strikeforce lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez. The fights have spanned nearly four years in between, with Thomson winning the initial fight way back in June of ’08, and Melendez winning the rematch in December of ’09. The third fight has been teased before, but due to injuries and other issues has never come to fruition.
Thomson claims to be healthy now, refuting rumours of a major knee injury suffered during training camp, and is ready to reclaim the Strikeforce lightweight title that was once his. He will certainly be a crowd favourite, as the card is being held in San Jose, where Thomson trains with the crew from the American Kickboxing Academy. Thomson relishes the opportunity to take on Melendez in front of a roaring crowd, and describes the advantages of not traveling:
It’s always nice when you can sleep in your own bed all the way up to the fight, you don’t have to travel or do anything like that. Forrest Griffin gave me a good analogy about how fighters train for 8-10 weeks and then that week where you have to travel and go somewhere else for a fight, it’s like throwing it all out the door. You’re trying to find a place where you can get your food and eat. For guys that cut a lot of weight it’s not the easiest thing in the world, like trying to find a place where you can get distilled water or any type of diuretic food. It’s difficult, you normally can’t cook inside a hotel, so it’s hard and I’ve been blessed to be able to fight here in San Jose and like I’ve said there is nothing better than sleeping in your own bed.
They say familiarity breeds contempt. Despite the years-long rivalry, with all of its stops and starts and twists and turns, things between Thomson and Melendez have remained mostly civil. That doesn’t mean to say that Thomson isn’t focused directly on defeating Melendez nor that he hasn’t found some holes in Melendez’s game that he can exploit however.
Oh yeah, there are definitely going to be holes in everyone’s game that you can exploit. It’s just a matter of getting there and getting it done. Relatively, he hasn’t changed a lot since the second fight. There is no secret to the way he fights. He changed his style after i beat him the first time, he used to come forward, kind of chase after you and make you break mentally and in the first fight he paid the price for that. I just picked him apart and side step and move. He now changed his game to standing and counter punching a little bit and it’s been working for him. I think he’s going to stay with that.
There is an old Latin proverb that says “victory loves preparation”. It has been quoted by military leaders and sports coaches throughout history as a rallying cry. There is perhaps no more fitting place for those words than the sport of mixed martial arts, where a great training camp can make you the next champion, and a bad training camp can have disastrous, Quinton Jackson-like results. Thomson is well aware of this, having dealt with a litany of injuries that may have caused another fighter to hang up the gloves. But he insists that his preparation for this fight will make him the victor.
Camp’s been good, honestly it’s been one of the best I’ve had in a long time. I don’t think I’ve had a camp this good since the second time I fought Gil. Even though the fight didn’t go my way the second time, the camp was a great camp that fight. The camp was a great one the first fight as well, but a couple bumps and bruises in that first fight. All in all I feel I’ve had a good camp.
Styles make fights, and Thomson’s style proved to be effective against Melendez the first time, and at the very least incredibly entertaining the second time. Thomson feels he has the tools to defeat Melendez and bring closure to one of the sport’s simmering rivalries once and for all.
I feel the one thing that I do well and I do better than everybody else is I match up very well with Gilbert Melendez. The first two fights have proven that. Everyone says you can’t do the MMA math when it comes to fighters, like there are guys in the top 20 that i feel would give me a hard time, but there are guys in the top 5 that i would do well with. It’s hard to really say who is the best, until we all fight each other. In this situation, I match up very well with Gil.
We’ll see if the match-up indeed favours the challenger on Saturday night.
Listen to the entire interview below.