SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Talent is never enough.
Late last year, having heard stories of partying and drinking and a lack of respect for himself as a professional mixed martial artist,
"I don't give a damn what the hell you're doing, but if you're going to continue fighting you need to stop," Thomson's trainer told him. "And I don't even want to talk about this ever again.
"It needs to stop."
Early Saturday morning, after impressively capturing the Strikeforce lightweight belt, Thomson had many people to thank. Mendez was at the top of the list.
"When I listen to him," Thomson said, "I win."
That applies in life and fighting.
"I don't know what he was doing, or how much he was having fun," Mendez said. "But I knew it was interfering with what he as doing."
To look at the 29-year-old Thomson's record you wouldn't see a problem. But for those that were closest to the former UFC contender, negative changes in his attitudes and influences were obvious.
"I watched him last year throwing his career away," said
"I spent all last year at a bar and all I had to show for it was bar tab," Thomson quipped. "This year I don't plan on being that person. I plan on being a person holding [the Strikeforce belt] around my waist."
He earned the right to do that Friday after impressively dismantling ranked lightweight
"There was no way I was going to lose the fight," Thomson said. "Not a chance. I trained too hard for this fight. When I was sick I trained. When I had staph I trained."
Coming off shoulder surgery, Thomson (15-2, 1 NC) was a sizeable underdog. From the outset Thomson appeared to be the sharper fighter against his former sparring partner.
"Thomson's tough," said
Leading into the fight, Thomson spoke openly in the media about setbacks during his training camp. Preemptive excuses, some thought. To Thomson, it was about being honest. No, he was not 100 percent. No, he didn't not feel his best. But so what, here he was -- ready -- to win a title against a very good champion.
"Josh fought his game plan," Melendez said. "For some reason, I don't know, that first takedown was locked and I just couldn't finish it. It discouraged me on the takedown part, so I had to stand with him. I had some mental malfunction where I couldn't finish the takedown. I ended up standing with him. He was the better man today."
Working off a stiff jab, Thomson moved laterally and kept Melendez (14-2) reaching. Controlling the distance, Thomson dictated when to strike and when to wrestle.
Training in heavy doses with UFC welterweight contender
"We worked hard on that with really good wrestlers that were bigger," said "Crazy"
"I think that really messed up Gilbert," Mendez added. "I don't think he realizes Josh jumped another level on the takedowns, and it's all honestly due to Josh Koscheck."
Koscheck wouldn't have had the opportunity, though, had Thomson continued living inside a bottle. No amount of coaxing from Mendez or encouragement from Prangley would have made difference if "The Punk" refused to listen.
"I've seen a huge difference in him," Prangley said. "When I met him he was just young and he is a punk. But he's grown a lot."
Having stayed dry since January, Thomson now owns a meaningful title and is tremendous position to capitalize. Next on Thomson's plate could be a challenge against the Dream lightweight tournament winner --
Like UFC lightweight champion
Said a beaming Mendez: "This is the best Josh Thomson I've ever seen."