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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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Saad Awad talks Zach Freeman, kickboxing, 165 lb division and more ahead of Bellator 186

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Long-time Bellator veteran Saad Awad takes on Zach “the Pico slayer” Freeman at Bellator 186. Awad is currently coming off of a unanimous decision win over Ryan Quinn back at Bellator 178. Awad looks to beat top prospect Freeman in an attempt to go on a two-fight winning streak, in a stacked lightweight division.

Speaking with MMA Latest, Awad let it known he believes Freeman has the better ground game. “I think he’s a solid fighter, pretty durable, obviously better on the ground, so I know I just have to be sharp, and be precise with my striking, and get ready for a good ground game.”

Freeman made his name by beating Bellator’s hyped prospect Aaron Pico back in June, Awad had the chance to give his thoughts on the fight. “I thought it was good, I thought it was a fast win, but he didn’t shy away from it, he didn’t let Pico come in and impose his will, he struck back when he needed to, and dropped him, and got a nice submission.”

With every win helping fighters get closer to a title shot, it’s unclear whether or not Awad is close to a title shot, but he hasn’t given up hope. “I’ve been with Bellator since 2012, I think, or 2013 and I haven’t got a title fight yet so I don’t know man. To be honest, it’s on Bellator and on me to go out there and preform. So I need to win as many fights as I can, so I can go out there and win it.”

For a long time, Awad has been known mostly as the man who knocked out former Bellator champion Will Brooks. Awad believes he’s moved past that fight and more importantly, has moved on from that title. “Definitely at the time I was that guy and I feel like Zach Freeman is that guy for Pico because Pico was pumped up, obviously more than normal. I had that title for a while, but Will Brooks did go off and win a title right after he lost to me, so he had his name buzzing for a while. I definitely think I’ve moved on from that and I’ve beaten some really good guys after that, and I’ve had some really good wars since that fight. I’ll never let one fight dictate who I am and I’m glad I’ve moved past that”

Awad comes into the fight back in the win column and up against an up and coming opponent, Awad details the amount of pressure he’s on. “You know what I always put pressure on myself. Whether I’m winning or losing, because at the end of the day you want to win, whether you’re coming off of a loss or you’re coming off a win. If you lose, you lose, and that’s it, you lost, so there’s always expectation with me and yeah if this time I lose, I could possibly get cut if I lose this one, because I just won my last one and I’m not trying to have a win one, lose, win one, lose one. So there’s still that pressure to perform, especially being that Zach has only one fight in Bellator and I’m probably ten fights in. So I do have some pressure behind me.”

Awad was unable to watch the Henderson-Pitbull fight, lucky, but he did have a theory on why it went the way it did. “You know what I didn’t even watch it, normally I watch all the lightweights but I missed that fight. I read it online, people were complaining saying they both weren’t doing as much, but I understand why Henderson probably wasn’t doing as much, because Patricky hits pretty hard and usually when someone hits pretty hard, you don’t want to go out there with that person and mix it up, because you don’t want to get knocked out. I don’t know if that’s exactly what happened, but I know it could’ve happened. So I take nothing from them because they’re both really good fighters and he won a split decsion so it was obviously close enough for them to go to a split decision.”

Awad also spoke about whether he preferred lightweight or welterweight, and why Bellator should consider a 165-pound weight class. “Honestly man I hate cutting weight. I hate cutting weight but I feel like I’m one of those guys that like if there’s a 165-pound weight class, that would fit me the best. I’m a huge lightweight but I’m a small welterweight, not small but I don’t cut that much weight like my normal walk around weight is probably 165 so you know I’m not the biggest welterweight so I prefer 165 if they added that weight class. If Bellator gets that weight I’d probably be one of the first in line to fight for it.”

With Bellator’s recent splurge on free agents and former UFC fighter’s, Awad believes it’s only helped make Bellator stronger. “I think its cool. No matter where they come from at the end of the day we’re fighters and whether we get cut or we opt to get out of our contracts, it’s because we want to make money, we want to get paid as much as we can, and sometimes we feel like we’re not respected and, were not getting paid what we think we’re worth. So sometimes you have to get out of a contract whether it’s with the UFC, ONE FC or Titan wherever the hell they’re at, or Bellator even. They leave because they want to get paid more. Even if they lost a couple fights, guys can have bad nights and they lose a couple and get cut. It doesn’t mean the guys suck. They could have had something going on or they just have bad match-ups and those guys could be still just as good and dangerous as they were when they first started. So I think nothing of them, I don’t look down on any of the fighters that come here, whether they were cut or opted to get out. At the end of the day, they’re still fighters so there’s respect for their abilities.”

Awad has also been training with Duane Ludwig ahead of this fight. “You know what Duane used to train with my coaches back in the day, I think back in ‘99, 2000 and so they have a really good relationship. He was out in Colorado and we had some teammates that would train with him. Now he’s back out here in Cali, so now we have some teammates going out and mixing it up with them. I’ve only met him once but the dude brings a different aspect to training and for me training with them I would definitely like to train with him more because, like I said, it opened up a whole new book in the chapter of training. I’ll definitely look forward to learning his style of standup because I think it would be good. I’m a big fan of Muay Thai, kickboxing, and boxing, and that’s how I’m going to end being the best I can possibly be, so I think that can add a lot to my arsenal.”

Speaking of kickboxing, Awad has also shown interest in participating on Bellator’s kickboxing cards. “You know what I did ask them, it kind of got shunned away because they’re keeping me busy with MMA. If they cant keep me busy next year I’ll definitely ask them to put me on one of those cards.”

Saad Awad takes on Zach Freeman on November 3rd, at Bellator 186. MMA Latest would like to thank Saad for taking time out of his busy schedule to speak with us.

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Announcement

Watch: Bellator 185 Prelims

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Gegard Mousasi takes on Alexander Slemenko live this Friday night October 20th at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville CT. This is the first appearance for Mousasi in the Bellator cage as he looks to secure a title shot with a win over the very tough former Bellator champion Slemenko. Joining these men of the main card will be a pair of welterweights as Neiman Gracie from the famous Gracie BJJ family takes on Zak Bucia in the co-main event.

Complete Bellator 185: Mousasi vs. Shlemenko Fight Card:

Middleweight Main Event: Gegard Mousasi (42-6-2) vs. Alexander Shlemenko (56-9, 1 NC)

Welterweight Feature Bout: Neiman Gracie (6-0) vs. Zak Bucia (18-8)

Women’s Flyweight Feature Bout: Heather Hardy (1-0) vs. Kristina Williams (Debut)

Lightweight Feature Bout: Ryan Quinn (13-7) vs. Marcus Surin (4-0)

Women’s Flyweight Feature Bout: Ana Julaton (2-2) vs. Lisa Blaine (1-0)

Preliminary Card:

Catchweight Preliminary Bout: Jordan Young (6-0) vs. Alec Hooben (5-3)

Middleweight Preliminary Bout: Costello van Steenis (8-1) vs. Steve Skrzat (8-9)

Welterweight Preliminary Bout: Vinicius de Jesus (5-1) vs. Joaquin Buckley (7-1)

Lightweight Preliminary Bout: John Beneduce (2-1) vs. Dean Hancock (2-1)

Featherweight Preliminary Bout: Timothy Wheeler (1-4) vs. Pete Rogers (2-4)

150 lb. Catchweight Preliminary Bout: Don Shainis (3-1) vs. Matthew Denning (5-6)

150 lb. Catchweight Preliminary Bout: Frank Sforza (6-0) vs. Vovka Clay (3-2)

Lightweight Preliminary Bout: Kevin Carrier (Pro Debut) vs. Jose Antonio Perez (Pro Debut)

Flyweight Preliminary Bout: John Lopez

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*Watch* Bellator 185 Weigh in: Live Stream, Results

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Watch the live weigh-ins for Bellator 185 here.

Gegard Mousasi takes on Alexander Slemenko live this Friday night October 20th at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville CT. This is the first appearance for Mousasi in the Bellator cage as he looks to secure a title shot with a win over the very tough former Bellator champion Slemenko. Joining these men of the main card will be a pair of welterweights as Neiman Gracie from the famous Gracie BJJ family takes on Zak Bucia in the co-main event.

Full Weigh-in Results: (Updated in real time)

Main Card:

Gegard Mousasi (185) vs. Alexander Shlemenko (186)
Neiman Gracie (170.5) vs. Zak Bucia (170)
Heather Hardy (126) vs. Kristina Williams (126)
Ryan Quinn (155.5) vs. Marcus Surin (155)
Ana Julaton (125.5) vs. Lisa Blaine (122)

Preliminary Card:

Jordan Young (200) vs. Alec Hooben (194)
Costello van Steenis (185) vs. Steve Skrzat (186)
Vinicius de Jesus (170) vs. Joaquin Buckley (171)
John Beneduce (154.5) vs. Dean Hancock (155)
Timothy Wheeler (144) vs. Pete Rogers (144)
Don Shainis (150) vs. Matthew Denning (149)
Frank Sforza (149) vs. Vovka Clay (150)
Kevin Carrier (156) vs. Jose Antonio Perez (153)
John Lopez (126) vs. Billy Giovanella (125)

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