While Justin Wilcox and Rodrigo Damm may be headlining Friday’s Strikeforce Challengers 15 in Stockton, Calif., the fighter who may have the most to gain from the evening’s festivities is up-and-coming Cesar Gracie prospect Josh Thornburg.
A replacement for an injured Conor Huen, Thornburg is eager to return to Strikeforce after suffering the second loss of his career just a few weeks ago to Roger Bowling.
“After the (Bowling) fight I was pretty disappointed in my performance, so I just let (Strikeforce) know that I was looking to get back in there as soon as possible,” Thornburg told MMAWeekly.com. “And then when (Huen dropped out) I was one the first calls.
“For me, a fast turnaround isn’t a problem. I’ve fought back-to-back months a few times, so it doesn’t really bother me. I think it’s a little bit of an advantage to step back in right away. It cuts down on some of the anxiety and everything.”
Thornburg admits in his loss to Bowling, he wasn’t himself and made a series of mistakes he normally wouldn’t have.
“I think I was a little reserved,” he admitted. “Part of it, I feel, is a little bit nerves, but I guess I just didn’t fight well.
“When I was on my back, I didn’t attempt as many submissions as I normally do; I normally finish fights with submissions. I didn’t really try a lot besides the guillotine. I’m disappointed in that. I held my hands a little bit lower than I usually do in the stand-up and didn’t let my hands go a lot.”
Thornburg will get an opportunity to redeem himself against Cung Le student James Terry, who is coming off two straight victories over Team Cesar Gracie fighters.
“I’ve got to go out there and win because I don’t want to lose two fights in a row, that’s the biggest thing in my head,” said Thornburg. “If I beat him and avenge the loss of a couple of my teammates, that’s great too.”
When asked if he feels he has an advantage working with teammates who have faced Terry recently, Thornburg replied, “A little bit.
“I got to watch both fights he fought my teammates, he’s more of a pace fighter and doesn’t finish fights, so I’ve got a pretty good feel about what he’s going to do. I don’t sit back a lot, but I am composed. He likes to bounce in and out a lot and that’s going to play into my style.”
Having trained with top fighters such as the Diaz brothers, Gilbert Melendez, and Jake Shields, Thornburg feels he’s been pushed to become a better fighter, and it will show on Friday night.
“I think the biggest thing that’s come across to me has been the cardio these guys have,” he commented. “When I came down I thought I was in great shape, but Nick, Nate, and Jake, all these guys have great cardio.
“That’s really stuck out to me as far as that never quit attitude. I thought I had a never quit attitude, but you definitely learn.”
Having achieved his initial goal of fighting in a major promotion, Thornburg’s next step is establishing himself as someone to watch in Strikeforce.
“I want to thank Vexillum, Butcher Gear, Family Chevron, E Rod, and Cesar Gracie,” he closed out. “Everybody who wants to come out, come out, I know I’m going to put on a great fight.
“I want to establish myself as one of the better fighters. I’d like my name to be up there with (my teammates) one day.”