by Michael Afromowitz (muaythaimes@aol.com)
The year 2006 has been a busy one for Josh Thomson. The 28-year-old Bay Area, California native, who had been repeatedly passed over for a title shot by a handful of organizations, was finally within what seemed to be an arm’s reach of a major championship when he was met by a relatively unknown, yet undeniably talented and unrelenting, Clay Guida.

Three months after the Strikeforce lightweight crown was snatched away from him, Thomson rebounded strongly, making quick work of road warrior Harris Sarmiento and, then, dominating Duane “Bang” Ludwig during the first-ever arena fight card in Fresno, California.

More recently, Thomson has been keeping his plate full both inside the gym and out. While preparing for 23-year-old prodigy Nam Phan, his second challenge in a span of only two months, Thomson has showed his “punk” side by engulfing himself in a furious battle of words with former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) middleweight champion and mixed martial arts legend, Frank Shamrock.

Q: You just had a big win. Now, with Nam, you have what appears to be another tough fight in front of you. What do you know about this guy?

A: I know he’s really good on the ground. I know he’s really mentally tough. I’ve seen a lot of his fights and he’s not afraid to mix it up on his feet. He has Tae Kwon Do style kicks, which is not really anything to fear, but they’re always something to think about and keep in the back of your head. Other than that, I know he’s got a big right hand and he throws it a lot. As far as grappling goes, I’d say he’s probably one of the best grapplers on the west coast.

Q: What about his grappling in comparison to yours? How do you feel his Brazilian Jiu Jitsu stacks up against your wrestling.

A: You know, I consider my Jiu Jitsu more of a strong point than my wrestling, which is kind of sad to say because I’ve wrestled so much longer than I’ve done Jiu Jitsu. When you’re always grappling, your wrestling kind of takes a back seat. A lot of people have to really fight to keep their wrestling up to par.

I think, overall, I’m gonna be fine. Even though he’s one of the best grapplers on the west coast, I think when you’re getting bombed on with punches that (his grappling isn’t) gonna be all that effective. Hopefully, his ground game will go out the door when I start throwing blows on him and, as far as on the feet, I know he won’t be foolish to stand with me.

Q: This fight is relatively close to your last fight. Do you think you’ll be completely fresh for this one?

A: You know, the only thing I was concerned about was that I didn’t really want to fight during the holiday season. I wanted to take the time off, but the fight got pushed back into this time frame. This is your living, so what do you do? You go out there and fight. This is my sixth fight this year and I really need to focus on finishing this fight and getting it done and enjoying my time.

Q: Let’s talk about this feud with Frank Shamrock that’s been brewing. Initially, the hostility was between Frank and Phil Baroni. Then, you decided to get involved and inject your thoughts about Frank. You even went on the record saying you’d fight him. Would you really fight him?

A: I’d fight him in a second. I think anybody at this level would be an idiot not to fight him. Just the chance of beating Frank Shamrock and shutting him up would be something that anyone would want to do.

The problem is that he’s kind of like a little mini-me. He runs around, talking about ‘I’ll fight this guy. I’ll fight that guy.’ He basically rides off the top guys’ coattails right now. But when push comes to shove, he won’t fight them. He makes videos (Thomson is referring to two different videos Shamrock created and uploaded to Youtube.com. The first features Shamrock offering his thoughts about Baroni and the second mocks both Baroni and Thomson.) saying he will but, the bottom line is, he won’t. He’s just gonna keep making videos with his little girl puppet that he has at the front desk at his school and keep dressing her up like a she-man. He’s gonna keep doing that because that’s Frank Shamrock.

I can’t knock him as far as him being a great competitor. He’s a very talented fighter. I think he was the first person to be so well-rounded as far as the grappling, the submissions, and the stand-up. He can do it all and no one can ever take that away from him. He is a fitness freak. I don’t think there’s anyone in the game that is mentally stronger than him. I think he’s a genetic freak and an overall specimen and I’ll give him credit for that. But, what I don’t give him credit for, is the trash talking that he does and then he doesn’t produce. That takes away from his legacy.

I’m just one of the people speaking up. Other fighters probably want to. The fact that I know Frank personally is what’s making me speak up. I don’t usually like to do this to fighters because it’s disrespectful. I’m looking at myself and saying maybe I’m overstepping my boundaries a little bit and being a little disrespectful, but he’s been disrespectful to other fighters, too, in the past, like Wanderlei (Silva), saying he’d knock Wanderlei out. He’d be an idiot to stand with Wanderlei. I’ve sparred with Frank. I know Frank. It’s good to hype up yourself and hype up a fight, but let’s live in reality. Let’s not live in fuckin’ Wonderland. The simple fact of the matter is that he’s a talented fighter. It’s just that he can’t seem to sign on the fuckin’ dotted line.

Q: You said something about him being one of the toughest fighters mentally. Do you think this is all a ploy to psyche Phil Baroni out and upset him to the point where Phil would be taken out of his game if they actually do fight?

A: No. Frank knows better than that. Baroni’s in training with Frank’s old trainer and the one thing that Frank knows is that Javier Mendez is one of the best at getting into your mind and making you focus – making you realize what your goal is in that particular fight. Javier is the best at that and, if Frank says ‘No,’ then Frank’s a liar because Javier’s one of the ones that made sure that Frank’s game was top notch. With Maurice (Smith, former UFC and K-1 USA champion), the two of them together were able to make Frank realize what he needed to do to get it done and Frank’s mental will is what got him to where he is today. Phil knows that and needs to stay focused on his goals, which are to work more at all the things that maybe Frank thinks he can exploit.

Q: What’s your history with Frank?

A: Frank never liked me. I was always cool to him, never said anything disrespectful to him. At the beginning, I even kind of held him on a bit of a pedestal as a training partner. You kind of look up to the guys who are at the top of the food chain when you’re first coming up. I respected him so much. I thought he was a great fighter but, what I respected him most for was that, when Javier picked me up and started training me 100 percent, Frank was one of those guys that came in to specifically grapple with me and spar with me and do those types of things. But, when (Frank) decided to leave, he decided to not even consider being friends. He’s just kind of been that way to all of the other fighters at our gym (American Kickboxing Academy) and most of them don’t give a shit. But, I think for me, it’s that I knew Frank on a personal level more than any of them did. So, that’s why it bothered me a little more.

I always looked at him like a nice guy. Maybe, he never looked at me the same way. But, it’s all good. Now that we’ve gone our separate ways, there’s no civility on his part to me. It’s been over two years since he’s been gone and I just got fed up with the trash talking and the whole video thing. It’s time that people heard about the real Frank. He likes to hype himself up. He likes to live off of his legacy. When it comes time to fight, he’ll fight anybody, but he won’t sign on the dotted line unless he gets $5 million dollars. The guys that are at the top of the food chain are making $5 million dollars. Who the hell are you (referring to Shamrock)? You’re not the man of the time. He can probably still compete with the men of the time but, right now, he’s not. He’s choosing to fight the Bryan Pardoe’s.

Q: In all fairness to Frank, he did sign to fight his next fight with Strikeforce, meaning that he would fight Phil. So, now it’s up to Phil.

A: Yea, Phil’s contract situation with Pride. Everyone who knows about professional fighting knows that, after your last fight on your term, you have a certain time that you have to negotiate with the company you’re with (Note: Baroni’s contract with Dreamstage Entertainment, Pride Fighting Championship’s parent company, stipulates that Baroni may only negotiate a new contract with Dreamstage for a period of 90 days before he can entertain offers from any competitors.). And that’s what I’m talking about. Frank knows that Phil’s kind of locked in a situation right now where its time to renegotiate and, so Frank’s trying to use that against him. Like I said, any fighter at our level would be an idiot not to fight Frank. I don’t care if you’re 145 lbs. If you’re Kid Yamamoto, you’re gonna fight him because there’s a chance you clip him and you knock him out or tap him. You fight 100 miles per hour and you fuckin’ hope that his age has caught up with him and he doesn’t keep up.

Q: It’s funny that you bring up the issue of physical size. During a recent internet radio interview, Frank went on the record doubting the genuineness of your offer to fight him and pointed to your size as being a major disadvantage for you if you two were to get it on. Do you think that people place too much emphasis on size and strength when it comes to fighting?

A: Yea, I do. I’ve sparred with Frank several times and, don’t get me wrong, Frank’s stand-up is good, but he’s not on cue. It may go the distance because I may not have enough power to knock him out cause Frank’s got one of those notorious chins. But, I’m just letting everyone know that Frank’s gonna be on the worse end of that deal. Frank knows that so he’s gonna do everything he can to take me down and, if he does, then he’ll try to maul me from there just like he did with John Lober. He stood with (Lober) until he got (Lober) to the ground. Then, he stood over him and fuckin’ put a savage beat down on him. That’s Frank’s style. Frank’s well-rounded. He’s the first guy to bring that well-roundedness to the UFC. That’s one of the things you have to be worried about with Frank. He can do it all. If Frank chooses to stand – I’ve been working a lot more on my stand-up and it’s getting a lot more fine-tuned. He knows that. Even when I wasn’t fine-tuned, I was definitely giving him fits, if not taking the better hand. I know I’ve gotten better since then and I can’t say he has.

As far as the grappling aspect goes, that might be something where the size weighs in. If he gets on top of me, then he’s gonna use his size. It’s just up to me to get the fuck up.

Q: What do you foresee for yourself in the New Year?

A: Only time will tell. We’ll see what happens. I’m real happy here with Strikeforce. I like it. I’ve gotta take it one fight at a time. Nam is really tough and he’s not somebody to overlook. I’ll tell you that.

Q: Is there anything else you want to tell people?

A: You can buy tickets for my fight at Knoxxgear.com.