It was more than 10 years ago that Josh Thomson first stepped in the Octagon. He hadn’t experienced a loss up to that point in his young career, and was riding high, being an outstanding athlete on his way to the top.
But unbeknownst to the MMA crowd, the fighter’s preparation was hindering him as he collected wins in the caged sport. Thomson said the amount he trained in his younger years hurt his ability to excel to a higher level than he had attained.
“It wasn’t so impressive when I was getting hurt,” he recently told Majority Draw Radio. “No one ever saw how impressive it was because I was hurt.”
After years of fighting in organizations all over the world, Thomson recently returned to the UFC and is now preparing to face former division champion Benson Henderson. The pair will headline UFC on Fox 10 on Jan. 25.
The opportunity to face Henderson came in part as a result of staying healthy in Thomson’s more recent years. Now in the 13th year of his career, Thomson said it’s important for him to “dial it back” when training. The approach is what he attributes his longevity to in one of the world’s most brutal competitions.
“I’ve dialed it back and learned different ways to train now,” he said. “Every day I’m learning something new, and that’s what I think has kept me in this sport so long.
“As you get older, your body always changes. You have to keep learning it and learning and relearning it. I have to figure out exactly what I can do. I adapt to different ways of training now: different styles of training, less impact on my body. There’s a lot of things that I used to do back in the day that I can’t do now and I just have to work around it.”
Thomson said he at one time did four-a-day training blocks, starting early in the morning with running then packing various workouts throughout the rest of his day to the evening.
After a while, this proved too much for him, even as he looked like he was in his best physical shape.
“That’s a lot of workouts,” he reflected. “I’d run in the morning for an hour and then I’d do the fighter training from 12 to 2. At 3:30, I’d do like a full plyometric workout and then I’d come back and hit mitts at night with [Javier Vasquez] for like an hour, and then I’d do the bike workout, which is all just cardio and push. That’s four hard workouts in one day, and I’d do that like three or four days a week easily.
“Sometimes you have to just not go as hard, work more on the technique of it all. I knew something had to give.”
Luckily for Thomson, he wised up and realized the importance of taking care of one’s body and prioritizing workouts in a way that wouldn’t run him ragged. Because of Thomson’s now-careful approach in preparation, Henderson will have a tough fight on Saturday at Chicago’s United Center against a guy that’s been near the top for more than a decade.
“Ten years later I’m still one of the No.1 fighters in the world,” Thomson proclaimed. “That to me says a lot. It’s been 10, 11, 12 years of me fighting in the best organizations in the world, and I’m still one of the best lightweights in the world.”(Follow @Erik_Fontanez on Twitter)