As a champion, expectations are a good thing. You have already won the title, so now you are expected to continue winning. But as a contender, expectations are different. They range from fighting for the title in the future, to no longer fighting at all. But for Josh Thomson, expectations have been quite different. Since fighting Gilbert Melendez for the second time in 2009, he has fought just four times. Three of those matches came in 2010, while he did not enter the cage at all in 2011.
Thomson has endured a litany of injuries since losing the Strikeforce lightweight title to Melendez in that December 2009 match. While he has continued his successful career in that time, going 3-1 in those four matches, there still were not many fans campaigning for Thomson to take on Melendez for a third time.
Expectations have come to be that Thomson did not deserve a third matchup with Melendez, despite winning the first match in June 2008. Melendez has won six consecutive matches since then, winning both the lightweight and interim lightweight titles. Expectations have become that he will storm through his opponents, and that he deserves a chance in the UFC. But come Saturday night, Thomson will look to show that not all things happen as we expect them to.
“I feel blessed I was able to roll my last camp into this camp,” Thomson said to MMAFrenzy.com, alluding to having fought just two months ago in a win over KJ Noons. “I had something to build off of in my last fight. There is still so much I can improve on. Yeah, everyone knows I was upset with my performance, but to be able to get the win on a crappy performance still makes me feel good about myself.”
Another performance that Thomson is disappointed in is the loss to Melendez in their rematch. Melendez lost the first match, but earned a rematch the following year with two consecutive wins. Thomson expected it to go the same way as the first, and he was on his way to fulfilling those expectations.
“I won the first match convincingly,” said Thomson. “I fought a smart fight the first time around, but I didn’t in the second one. I really need to use my advantage, which is my speed. Another key is that I have to keep my hands high and tight, and make sure to continually throw straight punches.
That has been the focus of my training. Before my match with [KJ] Noons, I was very cautious in training. We cut back a lot of my training for that fight, because I used to over-train so much, which is where injuries were easy to cause. But this camp we found a happy medium with my training.”
Another happy medium in training that Thomson has found is his persona inside the American Kickboxing Academy gym. Nicknamed “The Punk” for his attitude throughout training camps, Thomson admits that he is longer the man or the nickname of his younger days.
“The name ‘The Punk’ has faded away,” Thomson admitted. “That name came from the gym when I was 19 or 20 years old, and I am not really that same guy anymore. I really feel we are going to have to end up changing the nickname. If I could have given myself a nickname, I would have given myself something cooler. Something like “The Prodigy” or “The Prototype”. In fact, I really like Frankie Edgar’s nickname, “The Answer”. I wish I could steal that. I guess we will just have to fight for it.”
For now, Thomson will just have to focus on “El Nino”. He will not be the only one fighting for a championship in San Jose, as AKA teammate Daniel “Kung Fu Panda” Cormier takes on Josh Barnett in the Heavyweight Grand Prix Championship in the main event.
“As if I didn’t have enough pressure going into this fight, having Daniel fight after me only adds more to it,” said Thomson. “I will be pretty pissed off if I go out there and lose and he wins after me. But I think it is great that all of us at AKA are in the same situation as me, and I hope that continues. We all expect it to.”