Don't call it a comeback, I've been here for years
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When Josh Thomson sat down at the table to start the UFC post fight press conference following his split decision loss to Benson Henderson in January he was truly at a crossroads.
Just a few months earlier, Thomson was poised to fight for the UFC lightweight title, something he’s dreamed about for years, but when champion Anthony Pettis suffered an injury forcing him out of the fight he had to compromise and adjust to a different opportunity all together. A win over Henderson would have put Thomson right back in line for the title shot, but despite the majority of people scoring at home that gave the fight to the former Strikeforce champion, the judges ultimately opted to go the other direction.
It was heartbreaking and heart wrenching at the same time for Thomson, 35, who openly admitted before the fight that this might be his last chance at winning a UFC title before calling it a career.
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So when he stepped up to the table that night with a microphone in hand, he answered honestly that he had a hard decision to make on whether or not he would continue fighting.
"A lot of it had to do with a long camp. It was about a 15-week camp and that’s just a long time," Thomson said about his frustrations when speaking with FOX Sports. "The NFL football season is as long as my camp was, so I was tired, I was frustrated. Obviously, I had a lot riding on the fight. A lot of emotions were going through me. I tried not to make a decision right there at the press conference. I wanted everyone to know that may be it. I didn’t know what I was going to do. I wasn’t sure if it was the emotions from a long camp, or I had everything to lose in that fight. Ben didn’t have anything to lose. He knew, we all knew, that he wasn’t going to get an automatic title shot even if he knocked me out because he had two losses to (Anthony) Pettis.
A lot of emotions were going through me. I tried not to make a decision right there at the press conference. I wanted everyone to know that may be it. Everything was in my court, and I was really upset. I felt like I was robbed
— Josh Thomson
"Everything was in my court, and I was really upset. I felt like I was robbed. I felt like I had everything to lose, and overall I didn’t like the performance. Just a lot of things. I knew I didn’t want to make a decision right then and there at the press conference."
Even days later, Thomson still wasn’t ready to commit one way or the other about fighting again or just opting for retirement. He opened a new gym in his hometown of San Jose recently and as it started to flourish, his attention was drawn away from his own career inside the cage and began to turn towards his future as a business owner.
He also had to deal with a broken hand following the loss to Henderson, which was just another in a long line of injuries Thomson has dealt with over the last 13 years of his fight career.
But as they say ‘time heals all wounds’ and as his hand got healthy and his business didn’t require as much of his personal attention, Thomson started to inch closer and closer towards a decision of coming back and competing again.
"There was a lot going on from my last fight, just the long camp, that and starting my own gym, my own business, so there was just a lot going on. Now that’s all subsided," Thomson said. "The gym’s doing well and business is picking up and now my hand’s ready to go, I actually just got cleared today for punching, so I’m going to ease into it in the next week or two. I know there’s a fight here in July in San Jose so it all just kind of came together. You know what, let’s get it together and go out there and get a good fight."
FOX UFC Saturday will land in San Jose on July 26 and Thomson couldn’t think of a better place to return to action than competing in his hometown. It should also help to erase the bitter taste of the loss to Henderson considering the last time Thomson fought in San Jose it was in his comeback to the UFC in 2013 where he knocked out former title contender Nate Diaz.
Thomson isn’t exactly over the defeat from January, but with a renewed interest in fighting also comes a reinvigorated strategy for how to get back to the top of the division in the shortest time possible. He saw his old rival Gilbert Melendez lose in a similarly controversial fashion to Henderson in April 2013 and then go out and win one more fight and now he’s poised for a title shot at the end of the year.
Thomson doesn’t see why he couldn’t walk the same path if the UFC puts him on the card in July with the right opponent. He’s never been one to ask for any fight by name outside of requesting a title shot, so Thomson will leave that part up to UFC matchmaker Joe Silva, but he’s ready to receive the call and sign on the dotted line.
"My direction hasn’t changed," Thomson said. "Whatever is the quickest way to the title. I’m not really sure what they have in mind, I don’t know, it’s kind of like whatever they decide. I’m just trying to get back to the title, and get back to the title shot opportunity."