Former Strikeforce lightweight champ Josh Thomson has never been afraid to dive into a challenge head-first. The outspoken Californian has battled back from numerous injuries, faced all-comers, and always shown a willingness to engage his opponent over nearly a decade-long career. Based on that self-belief and ability to shrug off adversity, there’s little doubt as to why he stepped up to welcome highly-touted lightweight Gesias “JZ” Cavalcante to Strikeforce’s 155-pound division this October rather than take an easier route to title contention.
Thomson, who celebrates his 32nd birthday next Tuesday, recently spoke to media about his upcoming bout against the talented Brazilian, mentioning among other things his respect for the American Top Team product’s abilities, why he found the match-up appealing, and how he envisions the fight unfolding.
“I am excited for (the bout),” stated Thomson. “It’s been a rough camp…obviously when you are training hard for someone at JZ’s caliber you want to make sure that training goes perfect and I’ve been trying to make it as perfect as possible. I have bumps and bruises, everything that every fighter goes through, but so far it’s been a good camp.”
“I have had a lot of good guys to train with and I don’t think the media will get the grasp of the situation until JZ gets into the ring…it’s nice to have him come over from Japan and fight here stateside,” he continued while referencing the fact Cavalcante hasn’t competed outside of Japan since 2007.
When asked for more information on exactly how he was preparing for Cavalcante, “The Punk” replied, “I brought in a couple of other trainers, who have helped out a lot, so I have been working on my hands and I’m also working with a couple of some side guys on my kick boxing as well. I’ve been putting it all together and I have been working a lot on my wrestling as well. It is going to be interesting to see how the fight pans out.”
“Everyone I have talked to about him said that he is far and away the best that they have there down at the gym and I know I have my hands full,” he elaborated. “You can’t come to a fight like this with a chip on your shoulder and be arrogant about it. You have to go out there and be ready for everything that is going to happen. If I go out there and think that he can’t hurt me I am going to lose this fight. If he goes out there and rocks me in the first round your whole game plans goes out the door, and your mentality and everything gets ruined.”
As far as his assessment on what he sees taking place once the cage-door closes, Thomson responded, “I don’t think either one of us have an advantage. He is a little shorter than me. We have completely different styles, so it’s hard to say who has the advantage. We are both really well-rounded…he has great stand-up. Everyone wants to talk about mine but I hate to say it but he’s got phenomenal (striking). He’s a great fighter. He’s got the fighter spirit in him and he will never give up. He will fight to the end. I think this will be a knockdown fight. I see this being a knockdown, drag out fight.”
“(So) I can’t say that anyone really has the advantage,” he reiterated. “I fight a little bit faster. He’s probably a little bit stronger. He probably has a little more power. Obviously I am going to try to beat him to the punch. Wrestling wise he is a little shorter so he will probably be a little harder to take down, those type of things play a big factor. I need to go out there and implement my game plan and get in his face and let him know that it’s going to be a fight for three rounds.”
The 17-3 fighter also made it clear he wasn’t looking too far ahead, at least in regards to a rubber-match against current Strikeforce lightweight champ Gilbert Melendez, saying, “I think they are all must wins, everyone talking about the third fight. The last fight I was thinking about the third fight but the biggest problem was I think that there were a lot of things going through my mind which showed in my performance. It was a really lackluster performance, nothing was put together right. I broke two ribs in the first round and everything went down hill.”
Thomson continued, “So this fight what I did was I wiped my mind clean of the title fight. Everyone is talking to me about the Gilbert fight, and I was letting that get ahead of my actually training. You hear athletes say all the time I’ve got to take care of this one match first, and if this doesn’t happen there won’t be a third fight with Gilbert, and I let that hinder what I was doing last time. I definitely won’t be thinking about the third fight. I will be thinking about what is in front of me.”
In addition to the scrap between Thomson and Cavalcante for top 155-pound contendership, Strikeforce’s October 9th event is headlined by Nick Diaz defending his welterweight strap against rival KJ Noons, female champion Sarah Kaufman putting her title on the line against Marloes Coenen, and rising star Luke Rockhold facing typically-tough grappler Matt “The Law” Lindland.