Josh Thomson is the last man to defeat Gilbert Melendez, but ever since he won a five-round decision from “El Nino” to become Strikeforce lightweight champion in 2008, the American Kickboxing Academy product’s mixed martial arts career has been plagued by injuries and extended layoffs.

“The Punk” would sit out for more than a year before making his first title defense in December 2009 against Melendez, who had captured the interim crown in his absence. After losing the rematch, Thomson had a fairly active 2010, earning victories over Pat Healy and Gesias Cavalcante before falling to Tatsyua Kawajiri on New Year’s Eve.

He hasn’t stepped in the cage since. Most recently, Thomson was forced to withdraw from a proposed September bout with Maximo Blanco due to a foot injury.

Now finally healthy, Thomson will lock horns with K.J. Noons in the co-main event of Strikeforce “Tate vs. Rousey” at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio, this Saturday night. The 33-year-old says that he has taken the appropriate measures to stay healthy during his training camp.

“We did something different for this camp, and I’m a little nervous doing something like this against a guy like K.J. -- given all his experience -- [but] we felt like it was something that had to be done,” Thomson said during a recent Strikeforce media conference call.

“Obviously I’ve spent half of my career on the shelf because of injury. We really cut back on the workload that I was doing as far as training in this camp. We’re hoping it pays off. I look better and felt better in the gym than I have in years, but I’m not looking to be a gym hero. I want to come in there and make sure I perform well on fight night.”

In the past, Thomson said he would engage in four-a-day workouts three times a week before a fight. That included the standard MMA sessions as well as grueling plyometric cross-fit workouts. Cutting back there has allowed Thomson to remain fresher and healthier.

“I just felt that I was getting hurt a lot, getting injured a lot [in previous camps],” Thomson said. “My body was just breaking down.”

Thomson has been working with the likes of Gray Maynard and Justin Wilcox during his current camp, which he said was 12 weeks long to make up for his prolonged absence. Also, the former Strikeforce champion has been working extensively with kickboxers in preparation for Noons, who has professional experience in both boxing and kickboxing.

“I’m just focusing on making sure I’m in really good shape for this fight given that K.J. likes to push the pace,” Thomson said. “He likes to be an action fighter, and I want to make sure I’m in shape for all those things.”

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