Former Strikeforce lightweight champion Josh “The Punk” Thomson says fighting Benson Henderson on January 25th in the main event of UFC on FOX 10 in Chicago’s United Center might as well be a title shot.
“For me, it’s the same thing,” says Thomson. “I thought Benson was going to beat Pettis, so to me, he’s the one I thought I would be fighting for the title. That’s my mindset, so for me, this is like a title shot.”
Thomson was scheduled to fight for the title against newly crowned champion Anthony Pettis, who submitted Henderson with an armbar last August in the main event of UFC 1.4, before a knee injury forced “Showtime” to sit on the sidelines while he heals.
Still, Thomson says fighting Henderson only has a slight upside for him.
“He’s a really dangerous opponent, and I only took the fight because it’s Benson Henderson. I mean, who else would I want to fight? For years the fans have been wanting to see me and (former Strikeforce champion) Gil Melendez fight the Hendersons and Pettises of the world, and now we’re all in the biggest and best organization together, so let’s do this. I don’t care about the title. I care about putting on a good show. That’s it,” he said.
At age 35, Thomson has seen it all in this sport. He had his first professional fight in 2001 and he’s fought, and beaten, a who’s who of lightweight studs over the past thirteen years. He is also one of the founding stars of Strikeforce, which was acquired by UFC parent company Zuffa in March 2011.
“I feel like I have been here since the beginning,” he said. “I’ve fought some of the best in the world, and I’ve trained with the best in the world, guys like Frankie Edgar and BJ Penn. People love to say they watched UFC 1. Well, so did I. I was in my room watching Vitor Belfort knock guys out and I am still a fan of his. I care about putting on good shows, and giving the fans what they want. I am coming toward the end of my career, and like Chris Lytle did when he was getting ready to retire, I just want to take fights with guys that either I’ve wanted to fight, or the fans wanted to see.”
Training at American Kickboxing Academy beside the likes of UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez, Thomson is on a trajectory where he could become the second reigning champion fighting out of San Jose, California. And while perhaps trainer Javier Mendez may like the sound of that, Thomson doesn’t necessarily think it’s all that important.
“I don’t put that kind of pressure on myself,” he said. “My job is to train my butt off. If I do that and go out there and lose, I don’t consider that failing. Maybe I have to go and learn new techniques, but as long as I know I tried my hardest, that’s all I can do. I don’t need a title, I need to know that I did everything I could have possibly done so that come fight night, I am ready to put on a good show.”
The last time Thomson put on a good show was way back in April of last year, when he put a drumming on his Northern California neighbor Nate Diaz. Thomson TKO’d the former number one contender in the second round with a vicious head kick followed by some brutal ground and pound, becoming the first guy to ever stop Diaz via strikes.
Thomson has always had a flair for showmanship. But inside the Octagon isn’t the only place he likes to flex his muscles. He was in China for seven months shooting a martial arts film called “Fist Of The Dragon,” a remake of Don “The Dragon” Wilson’s “Moving Target” that is scheduled for release next month.
Thomson plays the lead role of an MMA fighter who goes to China to visit his girlfriend and ends up with an arms dealer’s package, and has to fight to save himself and his love.
“It was a lot of fun with a lot of great fight scenes,” said Thomson. “The choreography is really good in this movie. It was a good time. It’s something that I can now cross off my bucket list. I did it, it was fun, but I’m a fighter. It takes a lot of work to do movies and I understand that, but I love this sport and I just want to be around this sport forever.”
Like Kenny Florian and Chael Sonnen, “The Punk” says he’d like to try his hand at being an analyst for FOX Sports.
“If FOX Sports hired me to be a commentator that would be something I would put my heart and soul into and something I know I would enjoy and I would approach it with the same work ethic I approach my fight,” he said.
Luckily for FOX, after UFC on FOX 10, the network will be able to measure Thomson’s so-called “Q Rating,” a research term describing a television star’s like-ability with viewers. Something tells me Thomson’s will be pretty high.
Thomson Says This is His Title Shot
"I need to know that I did everything I could have possibly done so that come fight night, I am ready to put on a good show." - Josh Thomson