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Exclusive: Josh Thomson talks past, present, future and Herb Dean

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Josh Thomson has been a professional MMA fighter for fifteen years. There aren’t too many competing in the sport that can say that. The former Strikeforce lightweight champion has fought some of the best in the world during their prime. With a record of 20-8-1 its worth noting that “The Punk” has only been finished one time and that came by way of one of the sports best knockouts ever, when Yves Edwards caught him with a flying knee/kick that you will probably never see the likes of again. Thomson who recently signed with Bellator plans on bringing his nonstop aggression to Mike Bronzoulis on Saturday September 19th, when the two will meet at Bellator MMA and Glory: Dynamite 1.

CW: You’ve had a long career already for a fighter and fought some of the best in the world. Not too long ago you said that you’d evaluate whether or not to retire after each fight. I have to believe that with the Bellator signing you feel like you have one more title run in you. Is that true?

JT: I’ve talked to Herschel Walker about this. You know, when your competitive you want to compete at a high level. If you look at guys like Peyton Manning, people have been talking about him retiring and he’s talked about it but you cant really make that kind of decision after a big win or a tough loss.

You have to have some time to settle down and really think about it. I mean no one wants to go out having a loss for their last fight but if you win you think, “hey I still got more in the tank.” So if you win or loss, you always want to go one more. A lot of guys just don’t know what they’ll do after their fighting career is over so it makes the decision harder.

For me, I have a plan for when I’m done. I got my own gym, its called Knoxx Martial Arts and Fitness. So, ya know, I have a plan and know what I’ll be doing when I do retire.

CW: Can you talk about UFC contract dispute? You’ve said they wouldn’t match the Bellator offer, that there may have been sponsorship limitations. But Dana seemed to say that they didn’t want to resign you regardless. I have to ask you this; I’m not trying to start a controversy or war of words.

JT: Of course you are man. You’re the media. Ha-ha. Listen I don’t have anything bad to say about those guys. I respect Dana, Lorenzo, Frank and the UFC. It wasn’t just the Reebok deal. It was a business decision for them and for me. I had an offer from Bellator and they couldn’t or wouldn’t match it. It’s not personal, it business.

It’s the free market and free agency. It was a business decision for me, and the UFC in the end. I respect those guys and have nothing bad to say about any of them or the UFC.

CW: You’ve had three losses in a row, two by split decisions. That has to be a little disappointing. The Henderson fight stands out. Does that get at you a bit?

JT: Its tough if you think a decision should have went your way but that’s the sport. Obviously I think I won that fight but the judges make the call. Ben Henderson is a great guy so I’m not going to be mad at him about getting that split decision. For me, it’s all in the past. I’m looking forward.

CW: During the Ferguson fight, what did you say to Herb Dean after he stood you guys up because Ferguson used the cage to maintain position?

JT: I’ve said stuff to Herb Dean several times in past fights. I’ve gotten eye gouged and the guy gets five or six warnings. I’ve had guys stick their fingers in open cuts and he’s given them several warnings. This time, ya know, when you’re on the bottom trying to hit a sweep and the guys basically going over and holding the fence to avoid you from getting on top, that’s game changing stuff. It could maybe change the outcome of the fight.

When you have a ref who is not taking a point or even slapping the hand off the cage, ya know, I’ve had it happen several times with Herb Dean. So there were a lot of things I said to him right then, I was pretty upset. You cant give five, six or three or four warning about the same thing without taking a point. Also, I believe the rule states that if you’re going for the takedown or if its affecting the position of the fight its an automatic point deduction. So it should have been a point deduction instead of three warnings.

I was going for the sweep and it was working, starting to sweep him over but it would just stop so that means he grabbed something. I couldn’t see because my head was down but I heard Herb warn him three times. Three warnings means he grabbed the fence three times. There should have been a point taken there. So yeah, I said some things but I’m not going to repeat what I said. I’m not trying to get out of the fight but you’re looking for the ref to enforce the rules. I’ve felt like not just once, not just twice but repeatedly Herb Dean has been someone who kind of let the sport down.

I wont say he let me down but he let the sport down. In those kinds of situations, with those things, you can’t give several warnings and not take a point.

CW: Mike Bronzoulis is a big lightweight. He has fought at 170 before and he is also a power puncher. Do you have a particular approach to this matchup?

JT: Yeah, he is going to be a big lightweight. I know he’s fought at 170 before. I figure he is going to be bigger than me and I’ve heard he has pretty good punching power. It’s not going to change my style too much.

I’ll stand up with anyone and Ill go to the ground with anyone. I feel like a can compete with anyone anywhere in the cage. There’s not really much in the sport that I haven’t seen so I’m ready wherever, however it goes.

CW: It seems like you’ll be on a championship track in Bellator. I know it’s not in the cards right now but how would you feel about fighting in a tournament like the LHW one happening at this event? About maybe the possibility of fighting twice in one night?

JT: Yeah, I would love to have a chance to take part in something like that. Its something that is unique. It would be a great opportunity. As long as I’m involved in the sport I want to compete against the best and take advantage of all the opportunities available to me.

CW: What do you want to say to people that have some doubt about your career at this point or to the few out there who may not know who you are?

JT: People always talk but I don’t let that get to me. The thing is most people watched that last fight card because of me. People can say what they want but I’ve always been high up on the cards or a main event. I’ve always fought top guys because I’ve demanded to fight top guys. People tune in to watch me. For fifteen years I’ve been one of the best in the sport. People watch because of my fighting style. Win or lose people will watch.

CW: Hey, thank a lot Josh I really appreciate it.

JT: No problem man. Anytime.

If you like mixed martial arts you should like Josh Thomson. He was right when he said people watch because of his style. It wont be boring. He will be working the whole time even when people may be wondering how he is still on his feet. Watch his last fight against Tony Ferguson and witness a battle-hardened warrior at work. “The Punk” comes to fight, every time and that’s what fans tune in to see.

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Douglas Lima found out about change to co-main event at Bellator 192 from the internet

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Bellator 192 fight card has gone through a shake-up over the past week. Bellator president Scott Coker revealed last week that the scheduled welterweight title fight between Rory MacDonald and champion Douglas Lima will now be serving as the co-main event and the heavyweight matchup between Chael Sonnen and Rampage Jackson would instead take top billing. At the time no explanation was made for the change. Monday Douglas Lima was a guest on The MMA Hour with Ariel Helwani to discuss this change.

“I was little bummed, but it is what it is, it’s business you know. I was pretty excited you know? Being the main event, having Rampage fight as the co-main event, I was happy there. Then I was bummed out that they changed it back to the co-main event. It’s not going to change a thing for me, I’m just focusing on the fight.”

Lima has been notoriously looked over in the eyes of fight fans. A longtime member of Bellator and a two-time champion has not gotten the notice he deserves and hopes to get.

“I found out through the internet, nobody tells me anything, I didn’t know. the same thing happened in New York, I thought my fight would be before the two main events there, but it ended up being the first fight of the night on Pay-Per-View. Hopefully, it doesn’t take anything away from the fight, you know spotlight and stuff.”

Lima is looking to make all the naysayers take notice at Bellator 192 that takes place at The Forum in Inglewood, Califonia on January 20th.

“This is the fight I’ve been waiting for for a long time. To get my name out there, to get people to know who I am. I’ve been delivering a lot of good fights, fights fans like to watch but no attention yet. I’m hoping though that after a win over Rory this week it will really put my name out there and show all these welterweights out there that I am for real.”

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Refereeing’s Loss is Bellator’s Gain

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When former Bellator color commentator Jimmy Smith left the organization last week, not many expected MMA veteran referee, John McCarthy, to be his replacement. There is little doubt that McCarthy will make an excellent color analyst. However, it’s hard not to be disappointed that the sport is losing one of the best and most experienced referees.

McCarthy has been part of the fabric of MMA and the UFC in particular, since 1993. He was hugely influential in creating and enforcing the rules of the cage that have changed MMA into the respected sport it is today. Back in early to mid-nineties, the ‘sport’ was fairly labeled by some critics as ‘human cockfighting’. Without McCarthy as an instrumental player in changing regulations and rules, who knows where the MMA would be today.

What we have grown to appreciate most about McCarthy over the past two decades is how simple he makes this tough job look, which can be credited to years of experience and dedication. To the layman, it would appear that it’s a simple as stopping the fight when a fighter is knocked out or submitted. MMA fans know there’s a lot more to it than that.

It’s difficult to remember a moment in recent memory where McCarthy has let a fight go too long, or even stopped a fight too soon. His timing is almost always perfect. His composure and rationale in the cage are unmatched. When McCarthy is the third man in the Octagon we know the fighters are in safe hands.

It’s worth reiterating how important McCarthy is in maintaining the standard of referring and judging in the sport. The sport of MMA is still very young and is growing rapidly and so are the rules. The former LAPD police officer created his own training school known as C.O.M.M.A.N.D. The course teaches the next generation of MMA referees and judges, and there is no better person to be educated by. Referees must complete this or a similar course run by Herb Dean to be licensed as an official.

Former fighter Frank Trigg, who has pursued refereeing since his career wound down, has taken the course. He recently appeared on The MMA Hour to explain just how tough C.O.M.M.A.N.D is. It took Trigg three attempts to pass, emphasizing just how difficult a career path officiating is.

While ‘Big John’ as he is more affectionately known hasn’t completely left refereeing, he will likely no longer be seen in the cage at the biggest shows. The pool of referees trusted with the big title fights is rather small. Normally McCarthy and Herb Dean are tasked with the important title fights.

It’s not all bad that McCarthy is stepping aside for the time being. The likes of Mark Smith, Jason Herzog, and Chris Tognoni have all shown they are capable officials. There is now a great opportunity for them to move into the main event slots. There are also the likes of Yves Lavigne, Mike Beltran and Marc Goddard who can be trusted to referee the big fights.

While it is surprising, it’s understandable that McCarthy is looking for new career ventures. It is no secret that MMA referees are poorly paid relative to other sporting officials. Las Vegas often discloses referee pay when assignments are announced. The pay tends to range between $1000 and $2000 for the night. Trigg explained on The MMA hour that there is no money in becoming a referee and that most also have full-time jobs. McCarthy’s passion for the sport of MMA has been the biggest incentive for refereeing. It is totally understandable that he would take a bigger payday and put all his knowledge of the sport to good use in the commentary booth.

McCarthy will almost certainly be as dedicated to his new job as he was with his refereeing duties. He can also offer a fascinating insight into the officiating of a fight that nobody else can offer. If there wasn’t already an excuse to watch Bellator 192 on January 20th, headlined by Rory MacDonald vs Douglas Lima, then there most definitely is now.

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Chael Sonnen vs. Rampage Jackson the new main event at Bellator 192

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Bellator is getting ready to kick off their heavyweight grand prix at Bellator 192 on January 20th. The grand prix gets started with two former UFC greats who have now set their sights on Bellator gold, Chael Sonnen and Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson. Today it was announced that this heavyweight matchup of two ordinarily light heavyweights will be getting the bump up to the main event. The reason for the change has not been announced.

The main event was scheduled to be the much anticipated welterweight matchup between champion Douglas Lima and former UFC title challenger Rory MacDonald. Bellator has been promoting this event as such the welterweight title fight would get top billing. Earlier this week the fighters involved in the main and co-main event were part of a conference call. At the time there was no mention of the switch to the lineup.

This fight between Sonnen and Jackson is just the first in a series of heavyweight fights leading up to the crowning of the Bellator heavyweight championship in December. There has been great interest shown in this heavyweight grand prix between fans and media, which could attribute to the last minute change.

Lima vs. MacDonald will now serve as the co-main event on January 20th. Lima, who has been with Bellator since 2011 has been accused of being overlooked by the organization. He has held the welterweight title since November 2016 and perhaps has not gotten the showcases he deserves. This event will take place at The Forum in Inglewood, California.

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