May 19, 2012; San Jose, CA, USA; Gilbert Melendez (right) fights Josh Thomson (left) during the lightweight bout of the Strikeforce World Grand Prix at HP Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-US PRESSWIRE
It was a situation where most fighters would have reacted with bitterness, especially given the stakes at hand. But with a belt on the line, and the charged rubber match of his thoroughly entertaining trilogy against Gilbert Melendez barely in the rear-view mirror, Josh Thomson had lost by the closest of margins -- one point on a split decision -- and yet was all class.
Despite a booing San Jose, California, crowd last night (Sat., May 19, 2012) at the HP Pavilion, Thomson urged them to support the champ who'd retained his belt in a bout that wasthisclose -- especially in the throes of a strong fourth and fifth round by "The Punk," who threatened with a seemingly sunk-in rear-naked choke in the fourth, prior to lighting Melendez up on the feet and then scoring a takedown in the last stanza.
Thomson didn't complain.
He didn't berate the judges, two of whom went 48-47 for Melendez.
He even lent an olive branch to defuse the situation, by citing that Melendez and he were part of the larger Northern California mixed martial arts (MMA) scene, and asking the fans to support Gilbert.
It was a classy move by a guy that fought his heart out and came up just short. There was certainly an argument for Thomson to have won, especially if you scored that close first round for him. However, Melendez's work rate and takedowns in the second and third were clear-cut rounds for him, and as a result, the Strikeforce lightweight belt stayed with him.
It's refreshing to see athletes exit with their heads high and a sense of respect for their fellow fighters. Thomson was the epitome of that last night.