Perhaps we should have seen it coming. Josh Thomson fought most of his UFC on Fox 10 main event bout against Benson Henderson with only one fully-functioning hand after injuring his right thumb early but still clearly controlled at least three out of the five rounds with his wrestling and Jiu Jitsu.
When the judges got it very wrong and scored the fight for Henderson, Thomson shook his opponents hand and walked away in disbelief. Backstage in the bowels of Chicago's United Center arena, Thomson told assembled press that he may now retire.
"This might be it, man," Thomson said of his career.
The 35 year-old looked young as quick as ever against Henderson but he gave clues leading up to the fight that his mind and body had taken about as much damage as he wanted them to. "The Punk" called his four-month training camp the worst of his career and compared it to the NFL season.
“The NFL players, they do one padded practice a week, then they do meetings, walk-throughs and things like that and their game-plans. I do two padded practices a day for six days a week, so I’ve been getting punched and kicked for about 15 or 16 weeks," Thomson told reporters the Thursday before the fight.
After being robbed of the decision win, Thomson was emotional and clearly distraught at losing the UFC title shot that was on the line.
“You train this hard, for such a long camp, and I see my title shot just [expletive] disappearing, you know? Without getting emotional right now, it’s really irritating me," he said, his right hand in a sling.
However, alluding to the punishment that his body has gone through in his nearly 15 year career, Thomson also said that he had thought before the fight even happened that it might be his last.
"I’d still be in the same position," he explained.
"There’s a possibility [that I’d have turned down a title shot with a win], because what’s the point of winning the title knowing that you’re not going to fight that much longer? I don’t want to do that to the UFC either. But like I said, I’ve got to sit down with them and just talk about the direction of how this all should go."
It's impossible to know what Thomson would have done if he'd been given the decision he earned against Henderson. Perhaps he truly would have been able to turn down a title shot and retired.
Given that he said he's broken up about having lost the shot at UFC gold, however, it's clear that the goal was and still is on his mind. The lightweight division is in a bit of disarray right now.
The fights are more competitive, with better talent, than perhaps ever before. But the champion is also injured for the foreseeable future, Henderson's last win is a dubious one and he has already been beaten twice by Pettis, and Thomson may be too injured and/or retired to compete again soon.
If Thomson has felt that he's put his body through the MMA meat grinder enough times, then he should definitely retire. He openly campaigned for a television commentator position at UFC partner network Fox during the post event press conference.
However, if Thomson's talk of retirement is mostly being fueled by disappointment, perhaps he will consider healing his hand, resting awhile and seeing what options the UFC presents to him. With the division's top level as mixed up as it is, it's entirely possible that close to a year from now, Thomson will be healed up, re-motivated and positioned for a shot at the belt.
One thing is clear - he's earned that shot and he'd be a game challenger for the champion.