(Original photo by MMAWeekly.com)
Amidst the pandemonium of the marquee "Strikeforce: Diaz vs. Daley" event, you might hear the name "Nick Thompson" as a recurring point of debate in certain discussions.
Paul "Semtex" Daley has cemented a well deserved reputation for violently vanquishing anyone who dares to stand and strike with him. Thompson is being inserted into the main event analysis as an overlooked exception to "The Semtex Rule" for his fairly astounding 2009 defeat of Daley in a fight that took place mostly on the feet.
Even further disregarded is the fact that Thompson is captaining his own main event tonight in Bellator versus welterweight champion Ben Askren in a non-title affair. Askren, a former Olympic wrestler and one of the sport's most successful new crossover fighters, has wisely plugged the holes normally associated with an inexperienced wrestler by training with submission legend Marcelo Garcia and rocketing to brown belt level in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Already holding championship status and enduring the dangerous ground games of more experienced grapplers like Lyman Good and Dan Hornbuckle prove Askren made an intelligent choice.
After back to back losses to eventual UFC competitor Ed Herman and current #1 middleweight contender Yushin Okami, Thompson blazed a blistering 20-1 clip that put him on the fringe of the top-ten welterweight rankings. The impressive run included wins over Josh Neer, Chris Wilson, Eddie Alvarez, and a two-fight UFC stint, in which "The Goat" scored a decision over Keith Wisniewski but fell prey to a prime Karo Parisyan.
This put Thompson into a title bout in EliteXC against another name you might recognize: Jake Shields. The first-round guillotine was one of the fifteen wins that have propelled Shields towards a crack at UFC welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre. Thompson started 2009 with a roar by submitting Travis McCullough in January and out-dueling Daley in February, but went up a weight class to stay busy and tapped to some questionably placed strikes from Tim Kennedy, then suffered a TKO loss to Hornbuckle in Sengoku. That outcome would incur consecutively against Taisuke Okuno in Thompson's only fight in 2010, which was his last appearance leading up to the Askren bout tonight.
In the interview below, Thompson discusses his lengthy career, his advantages over Askren, the affects of focus on a fighter, and his distaste for the new Tapout brand.
Dallas Winston: You've been somewhat streaky throughout your career. Do you know (or care) why that is?
Nick Thompson: "I disagree. I think was incredibly consistent ... when fighting was my focus. Until I moved to welterweight in 2005, fighting was a hobby. I couldn't tell you my record, I would take any fight, fight on a days notice, etc. because I liked fighting. It was like playing football in the part. After moving to welterweight, I became focused on being the best fighter I could be and went 24-2, with wins over Alvarez, Daley, Neer, Wisniewski, Weir, et al."
After going 24-2, Elite XC fell apart. I couldn't find a fight, despite having been successful, to save my life. When I finally did get a fight, the only offer was to fight up a weight class, something I didn't want to do. Simultaneously, my wife and I had our daughter and consistency became significantly more important. Because of this my perspective on the sport changed. I think I became somewhat disillusioned and less willing to put in the extra effort necessary to be the best fighter I could be.
You had 15 fights in 2005, 9 fights in 2006, and only one fight in 2010. How much did your career in law play into this, and how do you think it will affect your performance this weekend?
NT: For the reasons above, I really began to focus on law the last couple of years. This has certainly caused me to miss out on some training. At the same time, because it is no longer my 'job', I am having fun in training for the first time in a long time.
Tell me about your training camp, and what specific changes you've made to account for Askren's wrestling?
NT: I moved from Minneapolis to La Crosse, Wisconsin last year. This has meant drastic changes to my training regimen. Luckily, one of the best D3 wrestling programs in the country is the University of Wisconsin - La Crosse and the coach, Dave Malachek, has been great about coming in and letting me work out with the team. Hopefully the time spent in the wrestling room will pay off.
Do you feel your combination of wrestling and no-gi sub grappling will present Askren with his most complex challenge?
NT: I think the most complex challenge for Askren will be that there isn't anything he can do that I haven’t seen before. I have had over 50 fights against the best guys in the world. What can he do to me that I haven’t seen? I, on the other hand, can put him in spots he has never been and a fight is a bad time for it to be in a position in which you have never been.
What do you see as your biggest advantage over him?
What particular part of your career are you the most proud of, and why?
NT: I am most proud of the Alvarez fight, not because I won, but because I trained the hardest I had ever trained. I feel that I earned that victory at the gym.
A few years ago, you were dedicated to staking your place in the top 10. How has your outlook changed from that time to now, going into the Askren fight?
NT: I think I am still top ten when I am focused. It has just become harder be focused because my career and my family come first. That being said, while I acknowledge that my fighting career is coming to an end, the transition has ignited a new passion in me. I am never going to lose again for lack of training. I may fight less per year but when I do fight, I am going to out train my opponent.
What is your prediction for the outcome this weekend?
NT: That I have done everything I could have done to earn a victory and the chips will fall where they may.
The floor is yours for any final comments.
NT: Thank you to Gamma-O and DOM for sponsoring me. F!@# the new TapouT. After selling the company, they not only bailed on me after 5 years of sponsorship, years in which I turned down bigger sponsorship offers because of loyalty, but they have refused to pay me the money owed for my last Sengoku fight and have not even been decent enough to respond to me. While I am grateful the sport has grown, some of the growing pains from the sport’s growing makes me sad.
Links of Interest:
BloodyElbow.com: Tapout: Two Years After Mask (Interview with Authentic Brands Group CEO)