It's been nearly nine years since Thomson called the UFC home. The last time Thomson was in the promotion, he lost his job only because the UFC decided they were going to drop the lightweight division altogether.
That sent Thomson packing over to Strikeforce where he became lightweight champion at one point, and while he's battled injuries and time off on several occasions, he's managed to always stay in the peripheral vision of anyone spotting top-ten fighters.
Now Thomson gets his chance to come roaring back in the UFC with a fight against former title contender Nate Diaz this weekend at UFC on Fox 7. He'll be featured on the main card in a showcase fight against one of the top names in his division.
As honored as he is to get this spot on day one back in the UFC, Thomson isn't returning to the promotion for main card slots and fun fights. He's gunning to get back to the top of the sport in a hurry.
"I'm not content with just 'I'm on the main card in the UFC on Fox.' I'm not settling for that," Thomson told Bleacher Report's Great Debate Radio recently. "I feel like with a big win here, I'm looking forward to being the person who gets the next title shot. I'm looking at the bigger picture. The big picture is to get this win and to basically settle a lot of those minds because there was a lot of controversy about me and Gil in our last fight and that should be me fighting Benson (Henderson).
"So with a big win here, I think that puts me right in the position where I want to be to get my next title shot."
Thomson's last fight in May 2012 was a razor-close split decision loss to his old rival and former Strikeforce lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez. Following that fight, Melendez is now fighting UFC lightweight champion Benson Henderson, and Thomson is ready to win against Diaz and secure his spot atop the contender's race.
Thomson is savvy enough to know that the UFC rarely places a fighter in a title bout off of one win, but he also sees the landscape of the lightweight division right now. There is no clear cut No. 1 contender behind Melendez currently, especially now with former WEC champion Anthony Pettis venturing down to 145 pounds to face Jose Aldo in August.
"Honestly, I would have seen had I fought Nate and get a win maybe they'd put me against (Anthony) Pettis before the title shot, but now Pettis is dropping to 145. There really is no one," Thomson stated. "Not only that, but like Gray (Maynard) would be the next one, but Gray has just fought twice for the title against Frankie (Edgar).
"I really could be wrong. They could throw him right back in there especially with a big win over T.J. Grant. But I'm really just putting myself in the best position that fits me and my career and that's getting a big win and leaving it up to them on hopefully putting me in for the next title shot. That would be the best situation possible."
Thomson's title shot aspirations go nowhere if he doesn't get past Diaz this Saturday, and he knows that's going to be a daunting task. Always a student of the game, Thomson has watched a lot of fights lately where people seemed to have figured out the Diaz style of fighting. From Nate's loss to Henderson in December to his brother Nick's defeats at the hands of Georges St-Pierre and Carlos Condit, Thomson has reviewed plenty of tape to see where he can best Diaz this weekend.
"I looked at the Benson fight, I also looked at the Carlos Condit fight, and the Georges St-Pierre fights with his brother," said Thomson. "All three of those fights, you can take a little bit of each one and really try to focus in on all the high points of each fight and try to use those to my benefit."
He also knows that the Diaz brothers are notorious for dragging their opponents into their game with some in-fight taunting. To combat that, Thomson literally had training partners shouting at him and trying to goad him into a fight just like Diaz will do on Saturday.
The preparation he hopes will pay off because he's going to follow the rule of tuning out whatever Diaz does inside the cage, that way he can unleash his best attacks to thwart the Stockton native from doing much, if any, damage at all.
"That's the key with all three of those guys—they didn't let that stuff get to them," Thomson said referring back to the fights he watched where the Diaz brothers lost. "When they started doing that, they really tried to capitalize when the showboating started. Once the fighters came in with the mentality of, 'I'm not going to let you get to me like that,' I think they had pretty much already won the fight."
Thomson wants to employ a similar strategy to beat Diaz and then target the winner of Henderson and Melendez, which happens to be the main event of the same card he's competing on Saturday night.
Damon Martin is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report and all quotes were obtained first-hand unless otherwise noted.
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