James Thompson has had a rougher ride than most in his MMA career, blighted by dodgy decisions, political manifestos, and by his own admission a hot-headed approach when things get feisty, all of which have contributed to an MMA record that belies his skill and potential.
He is on the cusp of probably the most relevant fight of his career, against five-time World’s Strongest Man Marius Pudzianowski in the Polish KSW promotion.
To many MMA fans, Pudz (as he is commonly referred to) is seen as an interloper in the world of hardcore MMA fighters, decorated with BJJ belts, NCAA accolades, and even Olympian credentials, but Thompson is taking his opponent very seriously and believes that he is no joke.
“That perception is harsh,” explained the Briton.
“He is a very focused individual and brings a lot of strength to his wrestling. I think he will look to come at me hard to start with and land something early.”
If he does, it will be typical of the Polish behemoth’s fighting style: swarm your opponent early and impose your will. It is a style that Thompson is well familiar with himself, having learned the hard way that strategy is more important.
The Gong and Dash has been abandoned.
“I think it’s important to know what kind of fighter you are and work a plan from there without forgetting and working on the weaker parts of your game. I have made changes to my training for this fight and got out of London.”
And what changes specifically?
“I’ve stopped trying to go for flying armbars, as they just weren’t working out for me,” jokes the 265-pounder, adding that a return to basics was needed.
“I wanted to get back to Bristol for this fight and I have been training at the Olympians gym, which is my friend Wes Murch’s place. London Shootfighters are a great team, but wanted to get out of London, my decision had nothing to do with Shoot.”
With a new approach, a fresh camp, and another high profile bout, Thompson knows that this time he must come through the victor. Pudz is the KSW poster boy, a hero to the baying crowd, and he knows that only a stoppage of the big man will do.
“You can never be sure with judges in any promotion, so I have to look for the stoppage. This fight is in Poland – his home turf – so that is the only way to make sure I win.”
Considering Thompson has had his fair share of controversial calls in high profile fights – from Kimbo Slice to Yusuke Kawaguchi and even the first Rob Broughton bout – he is isn’t going to lay blame on others.
“It’s real hard. Sometime it doesn’t go your way, but add on to those calls the mistakes and decisions I’ve made and before you know it you’re in a bit of a mess. You just have to keep your head down and keep working through it.”
Thompson and Pudzianowski fight at KSW 16 at the Ergo Arena in Gdansk/Sopot on May 21 in Poland.
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