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[Interview] With title shot at risk, Josh Thomson fights for fans, not UFC gold

Josh "The Punk" Thomson
Josh "The Punk" Thomson

When UFC Lightweight Champion Anthony Pettis was forced out of his title fight with Josh Thomson due to injury, most thought “The Punk” would wait on the sidelines until the champ was healthy to fight instead of risking his hard earned title shot against another opponent.

Luckily for Thomson, he’s not concerned about what “most” people think. And instead of waiting for his promised title shot, the American Kickboxing Academy standout decided to accept a fight with former lightweight champion Benson Henderson at this Saturday’s UFC on FOX in Chicago, Ill.

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In fact, not only did he accept a fight with the incredibly dangerous 19-3 former divisional kingpin – get this, he asked for it.

"I wasn't looking for an option to wait for Pettis. I was looking for the next best thing besides Pettis,” explained Thomson to as a recent guest on Majority Draw Radio. “I asked for Gil [Melendez], I asked for Benson, I asked -- I wanted to fight the next best thing. I wanted to fight someone to get me closer to the title. I wanted to fight the guys that were supposedly a step ahead of me. From TJ Grant, to Benson, to Gil. I even asked for [Rafael] Dos Anjos -- he kept me in the area where I am. That's it. All I wanted is to fight the best guys."

Thomson, 35, is a tenured veteran of the 155-pound division and he’s not about to let another fighter's injuries keep him from gaining momentum. Most recently, Thomson made waves during his return to the UFC in April, when he stopped former title contender Nate Diaz in the second round of their UFC on FOX fight with a brutal barrage of strikes.

The bludgeoning of Diaz earned him a Fight of The Night bonus and his aforementioned title shot, but as far as Thomson’s concerned – yeah the title shot is nice, but fighting the best in the world is why he got into the fist fighting business in the first place.

"This all comes down to, every single time I was in Strikeforce, someone would send me a tweet or a text or whatever, 'Man, I want you to fight Pettis. Damn I want you to fight Benson, damn I want you to fight this person or this person that's in the UFC," recalled the former champion of the now-defunct MMA promotion. "Now it’s come. Now I'm like hey, these guys are at the top of the food chain. Let's fight. I don't get what the issue is."

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As heralded and as dangerous as his 20-5 record would imply, perhaps the ‘issue’ lies in the fact that Thomson had to work incredibly hard to get to the point of contender status again. It took the San Jose, Calif., native ten years, close to 20 fights, agonizing injuries and brutal training camps to reach the cusp of UFC immortality.

Title shots don’t come around often, and when they do, most fighters hold onto them for dear life. So, for Thomson to risk all that blood, sweat and tears against one of the division’s toughest competitors is understandably perplexing.

Thomson doesn’t think this way, though. He seems wired in a different manner. Although he readily admits that he’s come to terms with the possibility of losing his title opportunity, it’s not something he can dwell on. After all, his job is to fight the best in the world, and as much as the title undoubtedly means to him, the thought of thrilling his fans with legendary scraps is more enticing than those of championship gold.

"I came to the UFC to fight the best guys. My fans want to see me fight the best guys,” said the 35-year-old. “I'd be doing them an injustice by sitting on the sidelines, waiting for them, waiting for Pettis to get healthy. I can't say how much longer I'll be fighting but you need to go out there and put on a great fight for your fans."

Thomson says he “must be doing something right” to remain a fixture of the division for so long. As far as this veteran is concerned, he will not let all that hard work go to waste, and even with a win over Henderson on Saturday, he won’t be waiting for Anthony Pettis to heal up. If Pettis isn’t healthy by the time he’s ready to fight again -- well, that’s okay -- he’ll just seek out some of the other all-world competitors the UFC has to offer.

"Get this win, and if Pettis isn't ready, then I guess it'll be Gilbert next,” he proclaimed in response to being asked what lies next for his storied career. “If Gilbert's not ready, then whoever, hopefully TJ will be ready by then. There's no disrespect in my voice whatsoever by asking to stay busy against these top guys."

Something tells this writer that the words 'disrespect' and 'Josh Thomson' won't be seen together anytime soon.

To listen to Josh's entire interview on Majority Draw Radio Episode 7, click HERE


Listen to National MMA Examiner Ryan McKinnell's weekly podcast with Danny Acosta (USA Today Sports, Sirius Satellite Radio), Majority Draw Radio: The Precision of Indecision

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