by Mick Hammond – MMAWeekly.com
This year has been a good one for James “The Colossus” Thompson. After losing only the second bout of his career late last year to Aleksander Emelianenko at Pride 28, James rebounded to win all four of his fights this year.
Now as we get closer to Pride Shockwave 2005, James is one of the most talked about names yet to be scheduled for the event. While it’s currently uncertain just who he’ll face on New Year’s Eve, Thompson intends to compete on the show, go undefeated this year, and build momentum for 2006.
Recently Thompson, at Team Quest’s Oregon facilities, discussed his year, his recent pro-wrestling/MMA bout, and his possible opponent at Shockwave that may not be the fighter everyone expects him to face.
MMA Weekly: Since the last time we talked James you went to Pride 30 and were victorious over gargantuan Alexandru Lungu. Tell us your thoughts on that fight and if you feel you were able to impose the gameplan you had going in.
James Thompson: We knew very little about Lungu (going in), only that he had fought at world championship level in Judo and Combat Sombo, as such my team and I thought it unwise to do my signature “run at my opponent.” I had wanted to keep him at range and when he was tired take him down and ground ‘n pound him. As I was waiting to come into the ring, I could see the pre-fight promo video, and in it they made a big deal of the “gong and dash” (as they call it in Japan). Because of this I felt under pressure to take the fight to him, whilst still thinking, “I have to stick to the game plan.” When I didn’t run at him and I heard the collective sigh of the audience, I thought, “fuck it I’d better up the tempo for the fans.” I then got drawn into a close range slug match and got caught with a hook. We then went to the ground and I thought it would be hard to deal with his weight, but I used a particular escape we’d been practicing and started to dominate the fight from there. On reflection this wasn’t a brilliant performance but I feel I’m improving as time goes on, I’m still a relative novice in the Pride field and realize I still have lots to learn.
MMA Weekly: After that fight you did something of a pro wrestling/MMA bout in Japan against Ricardo “The Mutant” Morias. Can you tell us how that came about and how it compared to full-on MMA fighting?
James Thompson: Pride wanted to keep me busy and raise my profile in Japan, U-file was just one of the things we’d discussed. Surprisingly there are a lot of top fighters competing in these circuits. I think there is really only a small difference in preparing for Pride as there is for U-file; both require similar commitment and effort. In fact I got to train with and hang out with some great fighters like Josh Barnett, Frank Shamrock, etc. Josh in particular helped me during my training sessions and gave me some tips that will help my all-around game. I’m sure many people already know this but Josh is probably one of the most knowledgeable MMA fighters in the world today. He’s got some wrestling tricks that are simply mind blowing. I certainly enjoyed my U-file experience and hope to do it again sometime.
MMA Weekly: Recently you’ve been traveling and training in different places such as Team Quest in Oregon. What made you decide to travel abroad and how has it effected your training?
James Thompson: I think it’s important to get a different perspective on how to do things and my travels are just an extension of that belief. My team, The Trojan Free Fighters, actively encourage cross training as they understand that to develop as a fighter you need to experience different fight styles. Going to Team Quest seemed a logical fist step, as they are one of the best MMA camps in the world. We now have a good working relationship with Robert (Folis, Team Quest Head Trainer) and the guys at Quest and I hope to go over again early next year with two of my teammates Ronnie Mann and Zelg Galesic. As for the effects on my training, I think I have gained a better understanding of how wrestling can be used to neutralize some Jiu-Jitsu techniques and this will definitely help my game.
MMA Weekly: We got a huge response from the fans after our last interview with you and you seem to be gaining more popularity here in the US. How does it feel to be developing more of a fanbase outside your native UK?
James Thompson: I really like America and think that it has a lot to offer in many ways. The fans in the US definitely have a better understanding of MMA and the grappling arts than most, so if I’m getting a fan base in the US then I know it is deserved.
MMA Weekly: You are expected to be participating in this year’s Pride Shockwave 2005 event in Japan on New Year’s Eve. Can you tell us what it would be like to be part of what could be the biggest show in Pride’s history?
James Thompson: Well as you have quite rightly said this is potentially their biggest show in Pride history, and as such any fighters chosen to fight are seen as the select few. I don’t like to think of myself as such, but appreciate the opportunity that has presented itself. Mr. Sakikabara (DSE President) is very supportive of his emerging fighters and tries where possible to give them real opportunities to develop. The Pride New Year’s Eve show is one such opportunity for me, and I will give my best effort to entertain the fans.
MMA Weekly: One rumor has you facing off against 2005 Middleweight Grand Prix Champion Mauricio “Shogun” Rua. Tell us your thoughts that possible match-up.
James Thompson: As for fighting Shogun, I respect him as a fighter and know I will have my work cut out. This said there are some factors that are in my favor and I would seek to exploit them. What is certain is that if we do fight there can only be one conclusion and that is someone is getting knocked the fuck out, so let’s just hope it’s Shogun.
MMA Weekly: Since joining Pride last year you have been facing increasingly larger opponents. What kind of strategy would you employ against someone smaller and potentially faster like Shogun?
James Thompson: Firstly Shogun walks around at nearly 100kgs (220lbs) so the step up wouldn’t be too difficult for him. Though putting on weight for some fighters can bring significant disadvantages, I anticipate this to be the case for Mauricio. As for tactics it would be foolish to give too much away just before the fight, but lets just say that he would be in for a very torrid time and the pressure would be on.
MMA Weekly: If you do not face Shogun and instead face a heavyweight such as Mark Coleman, would it be business as usual for facing a heavier fighter or do you tailor your strategy for each individual opponent?
James Thompson: Mark would be a tricky customer as he has such good takedowns. My game plan would have to be completely different to say that of Mauricio, though the same could be said for any fight that a separate game plan would be required for each individual opponent. The problem is that you can’t always focus too much on any one person as the opponent might change at the last moment. So although I study an opponent as best I can, I just train to develop myself all-around so that I can deal with who ever they put in front of me, no matter what their strengths.
MMA Weekly: Pride Heavyweight Champion Fedor Emelianenko will be facing Zulu at Shockwave 2005. If both he and you win that could very well set up a match between the two of you in 2006. What would be your thoughts on facing him or other top contenders such as Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira or Sergei Kharitonov?
James Thompson: I will fight who ever Pride put in front of me and can only hope to improve with each performance. If I have to face any of the aforementioned fighters then so be it, I’m a Pride fighter and I will follow the wishes of Mr. Sakakibara. None of the names you have mentioned hold any fears for me; as if they did I wouldn’t be fighting in Pride. Though when you’re in the early stages in your Pride career you have little control over what happens so whom I fight is largely an irrelevance. I know I just have to take my fights one at a time and not think too much about the likes of taking on the Pride Heavyweight Champion.
MMA Weekly: Looking back now over 2005, are you satisfied with it and where you are in your career now?
James Thompson: I think my career has gone well up until now, though like anything in life I would change a few things. Though when I look at how I have got to where I am, it is largely due to the efforts of others that I am where I am now. My trainer Charlie, my girlfriend Grats, my mum and my teammates at Trojan all played a big part in getting me to where I am today. So if I’m pleased about anything it’s that I am lucky enough to have good people around me.
MMA Weekly: What kind of plans/goals do you have set for yourself if all goes well at Shockwave 2005?
James Thompson: It’s difficult to answer this one as the situation really isn’t in my hands. Though if I could fight anyone next year it would have to be Bob Sapp, just because he has a similar style to me but I know I could rough him up. It would certainly be an entertaining fight and I would enjoy finishing it with a Pride stomp.
MMA Weekly: This year has been an interesting one for MMA in the UK. Lee Murray was stabbed and almost killed, but has since returned to begin making a comeback. The UFC headed over to bring in talent for the upcoming Ultimate Fighter 3 reality series. More big name fighters have gone over to compete in promotions there. How does it feel to see the spotlight shining bright on the UK MMA scene?
James Thompson: Firstly I’m glad Lee is doing well as he is actually a very nice guy. I am always saddened to hear of anyone being injured this way, but more so when it is a fellow MMA brother. As for the spotlight shining on UK MMA that is a great thing and something I can feel justifiably part of, though the biggest factor in the development of UK MMA has to be Andy Geer and Dave O’ Donnell. They have worked tirelessly to develop a worldwide brand and have had great success, though without getting the recognition they deserve. I know they are keen to raise the profile of UK based fighters and try where they can to champion the UK MMA cause. As for the UFC visiting the UK my understanding is that Michael Bisping has been chosen to represent the light-heavyweights from the UK. Mike is a great fighter and a very humble guy and is probably one of my favorite (UK) fighters, outside my team. He’s a good lad and will be a great ambassador for UK MMA, if anyone deserves the success it’s DJ Mikey B.
MMA Weekly: I understand one of your teammates, who could have been a great addition to the show, didn’t have the opportunity to audition?
James Thompson: I am a bit disappointed that the UFC people didn’t give my teammate Zelg Galesic a chance to attend the middleweight selection phase. He would have decimated any of the other fighters who applied and would have been the most exciting fighter the show had ever seen. Ironically the guy he was supposed to fight on Cage Rage has been selected; I am told, to go to The Ultimate Fighter. All I can think is that he’s been saved from a brutal beating, but good luck to him anyway I hope he does well. You will see what I’m talking about when Zelg fights on Cage Rage in February.
MMA Weekly: Thanks for your time as always James. Is there anything you’d like to say as we head out?
James Thompson: Thank you to all the fans that have sent me words of encouragement to the team website, it is much appreciated. Thanks Fight DVD, Evolution Fight Wear and iESPN for your continued support. Also thanks to Rob, Randy, Matt, Mike and all the guys at Quest for treating me so well, thanks guys! Also my special thanks go to Jeff Monson for coming to the UK to train with me and my teammates; you are a gentleman and an exceptional teacher, thank you!