Exclusive: UFC on FOX 7 lightweight Josh Thomson talks return to the UFC, Henderson vs. Melendez and avoiding injuries

Photo by Esther Lin via MMA Fighting

Get Josh Thomson's thoughts on his return to the UFC after nearly a decade, the UFC on FOX 7 main event of Benson Henderson vs. Gilbert Melendez, learning to avoid injuries and training and more in this exclusive interview with MMAmania.com.

Josh Thomson never knew if he was going to come back to the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) after departing in 2004, but after a nearly 10-year hiatus from the organization, "The Punk" is back.

Tonight (April 20, 2013) at UFC on FOX 7: "Henderson vs. Melendez" in San Jose, Calif., Thomson will attempt to reintroduce himself to the UFC audience in emphatic fashion when he takes on former Lightweight title challenge Nate Diaz in what the 34-year-old expects to be a "barnburner."

Thomson (19-5, 1 NC) has had his ups and downs over the years while competing in Pride, K-1 and Strikeforce, he returns to the Octagon as an entirely different man than the one who left.

In his previous UFC stint Thomson was cocky and arrogant, which led to his first mixed martial arts (MMA) defeat (read more about that here), but now he is much more mature both inside and outside of competition.

With his anticipated re-entry to the UFC just hours away, read Thomson's thoughts on fighting in the UFC again, his experiences outside of the UFC, the UFC on FOX 7 main event of Benson Henderson vs. Gilbert Melendez, his battle with the injury bug in recent years and more.

Check it out:

Mike Bohn (MMAmania.com): How good does it feel to finally be back in the UFC after all these years?

Josh Thomson: It feels good, it's -- I think it's just been a long time coming. I've been fighting forever whether it's been Strikeforce, or, you know, we always talked about getting back to the UFC forever and for me, the MMA game has always been kind of finish on top whatever promotion you're going to be at. It's kind of cool that I'll be finishing my career probably exactly where I started it, so that's a cool thing.

Mike Bohn (MMAmania.com): Are you happy you got all the experience outside the UFC in Strikeforce and Pride?

Josh Thomson: Well it's hard to say, obviously I would have liked to be a part of everything that's been going on in the UFC, but I feel like being part of Pride and being part of Strikeforce is kind of what helped make the UFC strong. Always having a competitive person right there behind them always tries to push them, and having other fighters that were top guys -- once they bought the companies the brought them over. It just shows they had interest in not just me, but other fighters as well that are in those organization and I think that every big show or every athlete or whatever needs somebody to help push them along and I think having those other organizations helped push them along to be successful faster and bigger and better at the time. For me I wouldn't have ever left the UFC -- they got rid of the weight class so there was nothing I could do about it. I wasn't big enough to fight at 170, so I wasn't going to stick around and fight at 170 when I wasn't the size and those guys at 170 are walking around at 190, 200 pounds.

Mike Bohn (MMAmania.com): Your last fight against Gilbert Melendez was extremely close and controversial. How long did it take you to get over that fight?

Josh Thomson: I think by the time I got out of the cage. I mean there was really nothing you could do, you've got to put it behind you and move on, so I mean I'm more just trying to get over the whole inactivity for the year, which is something I need. I thought I would be fighting in October when the [Strikeforce] card got canceled then again on the January card, the last Strikeforce card I thought I was going to be on that one as well, you know everything fell through so it just -- the whole year of inactivity is more or less what I've been dealing with, nothing else.

Mike Bohn (MMAmania.com): Gilbert fights on the same card as you at UFC on FOX 7; what do you think his chances are of beating Benson Henderson?

Josh Thomson: I really don't know. I mean it's going to be interesting to see. Gilbert poses a lot of threats. I mean he's hard to finish, he's got good grappling, he's got really good stand-up, he's a south-paw which is going to pose a little bit of a threat against Gil and I really couldn't tell you, I think Gil's - if anyone's going to prepared for Benson besides being left handed, I think I've been a pretty good advisory to Gilbert to help him get ready for this fight. I consider Benson kind of a little similar to me in that we're both well-rounded, we're good on the feet, we're good on the ground, wrestling's pretty decent. All of those things put together and we're kind of the same I guess in those areas. I think with Benson he's a little more flexible than me and he's left handed, you know, so he's probably got a little bit more power than I do, but that's not saying much everyone does, so other than that, I think Gil's going to do pretty well and we'll get the chance to see what happens. I think the chances are 50/50 though right now.

Mike Bohn (MMAmania.com): Is it a little bittersweet for you? Fighting on FOX is obviously a huge deal for your return to the UFC, but Melendez is fighting for the UFC belt in the main event and a lot of people feel you won the last fight. Are you a bit envious or perhaps even angry he's in that position instead of you?

Josh Thomson: No, I mean I've though about it but like I said, once I got out of the ring I was over it. Do I feel like it should be me in there doing it? Yeah. But who's to say they would have given me a title shot right away. You never know. The promotion does what they want to do and for me I just got to focus on what's in front of me and what they put in front of me and I can't worry about all the other stuff. The best way to get over all that other stuff and the best way to not care about that other stuff is just to win. Just to worry about your own fights and win your own fights so that's what I'll focus on doing is just winning this fight.

Mike Bohn (MMAmania.com): You've talked a lot about your training as of late and how you have adjusted your training to make sure you stay healthy. It's been a couple years now, do you feel like you're at the place where you can go through camps injury-free?

Josh Thomson: Yeah I feel like I'm on a good routine. The only issue is you really don't know until the fight happens how you feel. I mean, during the last Gilbert fight I felt great, I felt really good but I had questions in my mind whether I always felt that good because I came straight off the KJ [Noons] fight, a week off, 10-days off then I jumped right into another six-week camp to fight Gil. It's really hard to say, it's really hard to say whether that fight - I felt physically great, it's just hard. The KJ fight I felt like crap, I was dog-dead tired after the first round, so I looked the part physically, I looked physically fit, I looked pretty lean and ripped and felt good about myself, but once I got in there I definitely didn't have what it took to get through the full three rounds at a hard, rapid pace. But then a couple weeks later I fought - six weeks later I fought a great fight against Gil where I thought I won the fight, so it really is hard to tell. Right now I feel good, I just came back from China for six weeks and jumped right into a fight camp and there's nine weeks until the fight, eight weeks until training and I jumped right into a fight camp against who you would consider to be one of the best lightweights in the world Nate Diaz, who just came off a loss to Benson and was actually on a win-streak for a while there in the UFC. So it will be interesting to see what happens when it all comes down to it.

MMAmania.com will provide LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the main card action on fight night (Sat., April 20, 2013), which is slated to air at 8 p.m. ET on FOX. The latest play-by-play fight updates of the live action will begin to flow earlier than that, however, around 3:30 p.m. ET with the "Prelims" undercard bouts on Facebook and FX Channel.

For more news and notes on UFC on FOX 7, check out our complete event archive here.

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