Josh Thomson has officially retired.
The former Strikeforce lightweight champion appeared on the Weighing In podcast told co-host John McCarthy that he no longer has plans to continue competing. Thomson, 41, has not fought since a knockout loss to Patricky Freire at Bellator 172 in February 2017.
“I can say that I’m officially retired,” Thomson said as he and McCarthy discussed fighter longevity. “I can finally say it. And the thing is that you have to say it sometimes just to say what you just said, because I realized I was taking more shots than I should have been taking. And I don’t want to live that lifestyle, I didn’t want to be in there as a punching bag to anybody. I was taking more in training – that’s the thing, people only see the ones you take in the fight. They don’t realize that you’re taking more in training too, because there’s young, talented studs in my gym. And those guys are whooping your ass too; it’s not just the one guy in the cage that you’re fighting. It’s the lead-up to it. It’s all the other shots you take in there.
“That’s the hardest part, and so when you’re telling me all the things that [Donald Cerrone] went through, that’s exactly what happened, and I could see myself getting hit more often than I wanted to.”
In his prime, Thomson (22-9, 1 NC) was one of the top lightweights in the world. After going 2-1 in his first stint with the UFC, Thomson emerged as a star in the Strikeforce promotion and defeated future rival Gilbert Melendez in their first meeting in June 2008 to win a 155-pound championship. Melendez would win their next two fights, but following the resolution of that trilogy Thomson made a successful return to the UFC with a second-round TKO of Nate Diaz.
Thomson’s next three fights against Benson Henderson, Bobby Green, and Tony Ferguson resulted in decision losses. He then went to Bellator, where he won two bouts before his loss to Patricky “Pitbull,” a result he unsuccessfully tried to overturn as the result of an illegal headbutt he said McCarthy missed.
Thomson pointed to his struggles in the Freire fight and his own observation of Melendez’s decline as further motivation to hang up the gloves.
“[Melendez has] taken more damage in probably the last three or four than he took in almost his whole career,” he said. “And I looked at myself too, and I felt like I hadn’t taken a whole lot of damage up until the Tony Ferguson fight. I took that fight, (and I) took a ton of damage in that fight. Then I went to Bellator, one fight, really no damage, second fight, really no damage, but I could also feel the difference of when I got hit and how I felt when I got hit, versus just walking through it.
“Once you know, I could come to grips with that, every day I would tell myself, ‘Dude, you’re getting hit and you feel these shots now.’ I never used to feel them. Now when you feel them you’re like, this isn’t the same, this is not what I fell in love with. This feeling of training and getting hit, it’s not the same any more.”
MMA Fighting reached out to Thomson to ask about the timing of his retirement. He said he was holding out for one more fight, but the parties involved were unable to come to terms. He declined to name the potential opponent.
Thomson added his decision was affected by watching the damage taken by Cerrone in his recent fights and the recent death of NBA legend Kobe Bryant.
“I see what Donald Cerrone’s going through right now, and there’s a whole other life after fighting,” Thomson told MMA Fighting. “You have another 20, 30, maybe even 40 years if you’re lucky, god willing, to live, and you have your kids and you have your life. I guess because of what happened on Sunday with Kobe Bryant, losing him and his daughter and everything, reality sets in that there’s a whole life after [playing] that he was just getting to enjoy, and you never know when it’s going to come to an end, (or) how it’s going to come to an end. I have family that I haven’t seen in years; my dad passed when I was younger, and I was trying to live the dream as a fighter at the time, and I missed opportunities and chances to spend with him. There’s a lot of things in life.
“I’ve missed weddings and things like birthdays and Christmases and Thanksgiving (while) training for fights. I was at the gym instead. Not that it’s regrets – it’s just you realize now as you’re older, those are things that you want to get back a little bit, or you want to be part of now. I’ll be 42 this year, so it’s not like I’m a spring chicken, and you hear the term all the time that ‘Father Time is undefeated.’ But the reality of it is is that fool be whipping everybody’s ass around this age.”
Thomson expressed how content he is with his current role as an analyst for Bellator and reiterated several times that fans have seen the last of him inside the cage. Still, how is he so sure that this retirement will stick when so many other fighters have been unable to stay on the sidelines after declaring they were done with active competition?
“I’ve really made the decision,” Thomson told MMA Fighting. “I walk past the cage now, and I hear their bodies getting hit, I hear their head getting hit, I hear the clash of their bodies together, the slams – it doesn’t do anything for me. I don’t have the desire anymore to do it. I was motivated for this one fight to come about, and when it didn’t come about and time’s ticking, time’s not on my side, then I’m not really willing to continue to wait, and the longer I wait, the harder it is for me, and the less it benefits me to jump back in.
“So I have no desire. The other thing is that I’m really good friends with Coker outside of the business, and we’ve had several conversations about what’s best for myself and what’s best for Bellator, and how I can better help Bellator in any capacity possible. We’ve come to agree on a lot of things on how I’ll be used and how I can help better the organization. And I would rather do that than come back for one money-grab fight. It just doesn’t make any sense.”