It might feel like deja vu all over again for Josh Thomson and Scott Coker.
Thomson, a San Jose, Calif., native, has been here before. As the former Strikeforce Lightweight champion, SAP Center was his home away from home, the site for his historic set of trilogy of matches against "El Nino" Gilbert Melendez.
Expectations were certainly high for Thomson when Strikeforce was acquired and he officially became a part of Ultimate Fighting Championship. And his second round technical knockout of Nate Diaz certainly suggested he was primed to make a run for the gold again.
However, two controversial split decisions and a decision loss to Tony Ferguson later, plans changed. And it suddenly seemed like the pastures might be greener on the other side, where his former Strikeforce boss, Coker. was now the man in charge at Bellator MMA.
MMAmania.com recently spoke with Thomson about his decision to turn down UFC's offer and join Bellator and what his plans are for his promotional debut against "The Greek" Mike Bronzoulis at Bellator 142: "Dynamite 1" this Saturday night (Sept. 19, 2015).
For Thomson the most important thing coming into Bellator was getting an offer on paper that wouldn't damage a long-time friendship.
"Look you can be friends with somebody, but when you do business with friends, you get a little concerned. You don't want to step on each others toes, you don't want to piss each other off, you don't want to slap them in the face. The relationship that him and I have, it's not just fighting, it's not just he's my promoter -- there's a friendship there. It's like, 'Hey let's get some coffee, let's go play golf.' You don't want to ruin that ... especially over business."
Thomson didn't just want to join Bellator to reunite with an old friend, though, and he wasn't afraid to show us the math on how he does better financially without the Reebok apparel restrictions.
"When you look at what I made for the last fight right? I made $5,000 from the Reebok deal. (This time) I haven't even fought yet and I'm already at about $35,000 for this fight. It makes it a lot easier to go ahead and move forward, and that's only with just a couple of sponsors. That's not counting the other sponsors that are potentially going to come with. Regardless, I'm still already $30,000 ahead. On top of my fight purse is going to be a lot more money."
To Thomson age is just a number once the cage door shuts.
"Of course I'm going to be 37 like a day or two after the fight. There's no secret that I'm getting older, but the will to win is definitely still there. Anyone that's seen my Benson (Henderson) fight or my last fight -- there's no doubt that I still want to win. I have too much pride not to want to go out there and lay it all on the line."
"Punk" doesn't get his feathers ruffled too easily after being around for so long in this sport, but he does scoff at the notion from Bronzoulis that a win would elevate him to Lightweight contender status ... or vice versa.
"I think the talent that's in the organization, from (Michael) Chandler to (David) Rickels to Will Brooks -- I don't even think it's even in the conversation to be honest. And I'm being very up front. There was never an expectation I was going to come into this organization, fight Mike Bronzoulis or fight Chandler, and not have to still fight Rickels or somebody else to even get to Will Brooks. When I negotiated the contract, that was never even the conversation."
It's not a coincidence that Rickels' name came up at the same time Thomson shot down the idea of an instant title opportunity.
"I honestly believed that Rickels was going to be my first fight. It just so happened that he had booked a vacation, and he was just on the first day of his vacation when we called to see if he was interested in the fight, so that fight fell through. I'm definitely excited to fight these guys. I have nothing but respect for them."
Thomson also has a healthy respect for Bronzoulis, but he still plans to collect that aforementioned winner's purse.
"I'm excited about it all, I'm excited to be a part of it, but I have to win fights. By winning fights, that'll kind of answer everything. Right now, it's about getting past Mike. And the fact that he thinks that way, man I don't know whatever! He can think that way. That's his own business. He can think that way, but I don't want him to be disappointed. When he loses to me he'll definitely be even further away (from a title shot)."
Thomson says he's on goal to step on the scale at the 155-pound limit at weigh-ins with little worry or concern.
"I usually stay around 175 until about Wednesday before the weight cut, and then I'll start dieting down a little bit. By (next) Friday I'm on weight. I never have problems making weight. I don't really cut a whole lot of weight. A lot of these guys are cutting from 185, 190 ... that's just not me."
He expects to have a long career in Bellator thanks to his work ethic, good mindset and a healthy lifestyle.
"I just feel like the longevity of me being in the sport -- a lot of it has been because of the way I take care of my body. I've never cut a lot of weight, I've always eaten clean, I've always just taken care of myself. I've put in the time, I've put in the effort, to me that's what's important."
Emotionally happy and financially secure, the only thing he has to worry about now is Bronzoulis.
"People can say what they want, but that's why we fight the fights. We'll find out who wants to win when I get in there."
The complete audio of our interview with Thomson is below, and complete coverage of "Dynamite 1" on Sept. 19, 2015, at MMAmania.com will be right here.