Josh Thomson Announces Retirement From MMA

Following a career that spanned 16 years, Josh Thomson has officially retired from active MMA competition. Speaking on John McCarthy’s Weighing In podcast, the 41-year-old talked about the amount of time he believes he has left in the ring. The answer took a turn nobody expected.

“I can say that I’m officially retired,” Thomson said, via MMA Fighting. “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.”

Thomson (22-9, 1NC) is a former Strikeforce U.S. Lightweight and Lightweight Champion, in a career that started in 2001. Following a brief stint in the UFC where he went 2-1, Thomson joined Strikeforce where he became a dominant force, going 11-3 with the promotion. One of his most notable feuds was with Gilbert Melendez, who he went 1-2 against. He had another stint in the UFC, going 1-3 before joining Bellator. He won his debut bout for them in 2015 against Mike Bronzoulis via submission. Thomson then knocked out Pablo Villaseca at Bellator 147 before getting knocked out by Patricky Freire in his last bout at Bellator 172 in 2017.

Following his last bout, Thomson had a sense his time was coming. That was especially true when assessing the damage he sustained.

“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,” Thomson went on to say. “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.”

As an observer of the sport now, Thomson has seen how others feel when getting hit and it doesn’t sit right with him. The combination of Kobe Bryant’s death, which affected a number of MMA and boxing stars, and the punishment Donald Cerrone has taken over the years has given Thomson a new lease on life. He spoke to MMA Fighting following the announcement and stated he understands he can’t take anything for granted.

“I see what Donald Cerrone’s going through right now, and there’s a whole other life after fighting,” Thomson stated. “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,” Thomson continued. “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.

Although he hasn’t fought for a while, Thomson is within the sport in other ways. He is a commentator for Bellator while also helping other fighters who are coming up in the sport. There have been doubts whether the retirement will stick, especially since there has been an opportunity to fight an unnamed opponent prior to the announcement. As of now, Thomson is sticking to his decision.

“I have no desire,” Thomson stated when talking about potentially coming back to MMA down the line. “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.”

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