We recently sat down for an exclusive interview with UFC’s Josh “The Punk” Thomson. Thomson made his UFC debut at UFC 44 and has a record of 20-5-0, 1 No Contest. He’s been a professional since 2001 and his victories include nine wins by submission and five by KO.
Many of his stats, fight finishes and details about his career can be found on his UFC fighter profile, but we sat down to uncover the man outside of the Octagon.
How did your family react when you decided you wanted to become involved in MMA? Any scared moms or nervous aunts?
Initially they thought I was wasting my life when I got signed. They just thought it was something I was doing and that it wasn’t serious. But actually it was my cousin who was like “You’re fighting, what do you mean you’re fighting?” So I told him about this company called the UFC and he’s like oh my friends were talking about that and I’m like yeah I’m fighting for them. So obviously he was like, can I get tickets?? That’s kind of how it all started. He ran back and told my relatives and my family and next thing you know everyone was basically talking about it.
Your first fight at UFC 44, what was it like? Were you nervous, scared?
No I wasn’t nervous or scared. I was signed about one and a half years before that, but because there were only five shows a year, and I got injured, they had to use other fighters. So when it was time to actually debut it was more of the anticipation and build up of: Finally. I’m here.
After UFC’s done, what do you see yourself doing in 15-20 years?
Hopefully my gyms are taking off and doing well! Since I’ve had a lot of injuries in my career, I’ve developed pretty good relationships with a lot of sports therapists so I’m thinking of going to chiropractor’s school or doing some type of sport’s medicine.
People look at guys in your sport and are like “wow these guys are warriors,” but are there other sports that you look at and think wow that guy's really tough?
I’ve got to say, I really feel that hockey players are underappreciated. In hockey they’re allowed to fight, play hockey--they’re pretty awesome man! They’re in great shape and it’s still that true grittiness of the sport that I really like.
How about heroes?
There’s no one individual that I look at as my hero in any type of sport, they’re human just like us. I know what they go through and being a professional athlete--what they put their bodies through, their families through to get where they’re at. I just admire them, all of them just for being there.
As far as my family, my two grandmothers, one passed away a couple years ago and I have one left, they’re really the glue that holds the families together.
The rest of my life is built around my nephews and nieces, playing the uncle role, there’s more of a purpose in life. Fighting’s not everything, for a while it was just “focus on fighting, focus on fighting,” now I’ve got a family with siblings who’ve got kids. I don’t have any kids of my own so I get to be the spoiler.
Outside of work, what do you like to do in your free time?
Now, I’m just focused on opening my own gym. A cardio studio called DASH, and I’m focused on trying to get it off the ground, hopefully once this first one gets open I want to try to open another two or three in the next year.
I really enjoy that people can do the workouts I’ve done my whole career, because I know they work. I try to find new ways to get people to get fit--not just people who are athletes, but 50 or 60 year olds or kids who are 16-17 to develop workouts for them.
Now that they see what great shape you’re in do family and friends always ask you for tips now?
Well, for years I’ve got a group of friends and some of my family, that when I go out and do sprints on Saturday morning at the track I have probably 15-20 people that go out with me. They don’t try and keep up with me but they’re just out there, trying to work out themselves. That’s why I said I might as well just open a little fitness spot myself and let them train there.
As a UFC fighter you’ve probably heard some stereotypes or misconceptions about the sport, what do you think is the biggest misconception about not only the sport but you guys as fighters?
What I love is when people tell me “Oh I love boxing but I can’t watch the other stuff it’s just too brutal.” That’s interesting, because if people understood with boxing the general fighter just takes so much abuse. I mean think about the guys who are sparing 12 rounds probably twice a week, that’s 24 rounds of just basically getting hit in the head nonstop with these heavy gloves on. Then, they get in the fight and they’re fighting with heavier gloves on and very rarely you see a fight end with body shots.
Most of the time they’re either knocked out or they’re just taking punishment for three rounds. With our sport when I get hit or knocked down, the brain has a mechanism that, it shuts my body down and I hit the ground. And if I get hit again it just shuts down completely and the ref stops me.
Whereas in boxing the guy will get dropped twice in one round, it’ll take two-three rounds and maybe it’ll look like he’s got his feet back then he gets dropped two more times, then he gets dropped over and over again. You have to figure his brain is taking so much abuse in a 12 round fight, most of these guys get knocked out a couple of times in a round on their feet, and they get hit again and get woken back up.
So for me, I think the biggest misconception is that boxing is less brutal than MMA.
You’ve been around the sport ever since 44, what is your biggest advice to new fighters about getting into the sport/UFC?
If you want to have longevity in this sport, become well-rounded. I think the days of where you’re just one thing—those days are gone. The athletes that are coming into the sport, you’ll find that these kids ARE athletes. They train, and they’ve trained in other sports as well. I think all the athletes are finally making the transition into MMA.
These types of guys like GSP, he’s trained hard, he’s worked hard to get where he is, and he’s just a great athlete. He was probably the first of his kind. Guys like GSP are explosive, good athletes. Those guys that are coming in that are athletes and well rounded they end-up doing really well.
See Josh and other world class MMA fighters at a future UFC event near you (in VIP style!)