Late Wednesday night, UFC lightweight Josh Thomson began getting a huge influx of calls and text messages to his phone all with the same message: congratulations.
As it turns out, some of his friends and family heard the news before he even found out that he would be receiving the next shot at the UFC lightweight title against Anthony Pettis at UFC on Fox 9 in December.
Thomson was as gracious as he could be receiving the words of encouragement, but in reality he knew that he had nothing to celebrate. Not yet anyways.
"It's nice to know the UFC is giving me the opportunity to fight for their title, but the hard work is just getting started and the fight is the ultimate goal," Thomson told Bleacher Report on Tuesday. "So it's nice to know that everyone cares and is calling me telling me congratulations, but I haven't won anything yet."
Thomson is no stranger to being a champion, having held the Strikeforce lightweight strap in the past. He's also been a top-10-level lightweight for the better part of the last decade, so he's used to facing top competition.
This moment still feels special, however, because his latest run in the UFC is not his first. Thomson was part of the promotion when Dana White and the Fertitta brothers took over and started to revamp the once-destitute company. Part of the rebuilding plan involved focusing on the weight classes that were the strongest, and at the time there was no room for 155-pound fighters.
So Thomson and the rest of the division were jettisoned in 2004 until the promotion finally re-introduced the weight class almost two-and-a-half years later. When he left the UFC the first time, Thomson was considered one of the top fighters in the world at lightweight, and now almost 10 years later he's back at the top and finally getting a chance to compete for that elusive title.
"My honest to God opinion is if they hadn't gotten rid of the weight class, I probably would have been champion a long time ago in the UFC," Thomson said. "I feel like I've never not been a top lightweight, but injuries have barred me from being as active as I could have been in my career. This was an opportunity that was taken from me back in 2004 when the division wasn't carrying its own weight. Now, this opportunity is presented to me and you can bet your ass I'm going to capitalize on it."
The last time Thomson was at this stage in the UFC (where he could have been contending for a belt), he was 25 years old. Now on the cusp of his 35th birthday, the longtime American Kickboxing Academy lightweight is realistic about what this title shot means.
He knows that there is no tomorrow and there is no getting back to this spot again. Thomson looks at this as his one opportunity to shine, and there's no going back now.
"There is nothing after this. This is it. I'm not 27. I'll be 35 this weekend. This is it," Thomson said. "If I lose this fight, the chances of me having time to come back and get another title shot are pretty slim and I know that. You can bet your ass I'm going to put everything into this. I only need to be that good for one night. I can get my ass kicked every single day in training, but the only thing that matters is I have to be better than him in that one night.
"I just need to go out there and I need to be better than him that one night. I could go out and have the shi**est camp in the world, but if I go out there and beat him on that night, that's all that matters."
It's too early for Thomson to start breaking down Pettis in technical terms, although he's watched plenty of his fights already. The only thing he's willing to divulge right now is the fact that fans who buy tickets to their showdown on December 14 in Sacramento will get their money's worth.
"Honestly, the fans are the ones getting the win in this one," Thomson said. "The fans are going to get the best show of their lives. There's no other way to describe this. It's going to be nuts."
Damon Martin is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report, and all quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.
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