The Strikeforce Challengers Series may just be the very best MMA show in the country for showcasing the best of up-and-coming local talent. The main cards always have great fights between guys about to breakthrough or sometimes make their way back to the big show, but the preliminary cards are where we get to see what the future of the sport looks like.
Meet Thomas Campbell. If you still are not familiar with the name, he was awarded Pro MMA’s 2009 Amateur Fighter of the Year for going 10-1 and winning a HookNShoot tournament where he beat three opponents in one night, all in 2009.
After going 16-2 as an amateur, Thomas made his pro debut in April 2010 when Strikeforce held their first show in Nashville. Although his pro debut against Cody Floyd didn’t go quite as he had planned, Thomas has made some adjustments, including a change in camps, and is already back to his winning ways.
On Friday, Jan. 7, Thomas will fight Jeremy Wallace at “Strikeforce Challengers 13“. ProMMAnow.com (www.prommanow.com) spoke with Thomas about the upcoming fight, his change in camps, what his pro debut was like and what he took away from that bout that may come in useful as steps back onto one of the biggest and most coveted stages in all of professional mixed martial arts.
PRO MMA NOW: Thanks for speaking with us at ProMMAnow.com Thomas. How have these holidays been, knowing you have a fight just a few days after the New Year, have you had to tone down the food and celebration and how do you deal with that?
THOMAS CAMPBELL: I’m glad to have the opportunity to be on here. I’m dropping down to 135 for this fight so I really have to watch what I eat and sucks missing out on all the alcohol on Christmas and New Year’s. The temptation is hard but my mind is on the fight right now so that gives me the drive to stay on the right path. I still have fun with my family and friends. I just don’t partake in all the festivities. I will have my fun after the fight.
PRO MMA NOW: You were on the first Strikeforce card when they came to Nashville back in April and even though things didn’t go your way that time, it still had to be a great experience for you. What did you take away from that fight and what have you been up to since then?
THOMAS CAMPBELL: I learned a lot of things from that fight. The biggest thing was to not worry about what is going on around me and just stay focused on the fight. I had a lot of distractions but now I know what to do to get the job done. Since then I have doing a lot of training try to fix all those errors and making sure I don’t make the same mistake again.
PRO MMA NOW: When you walked out for that Strikeforce show the first time, what did that feel like? Did it feel different than what you were used to and did it feel the same when you were in there fighting or were you feeling a lot more pressure?
THOMAS CAMPBELL: I about pissed myself when I got out there (laughs) just kidding but that show was amazing. I was so pumped up and putting a lot of pressure on myself to win so it felt a lot different when I was out there. That was one of the mistakes I made cause it’s nothing new to me. It’s still a fight inside of a cage with people watching. So I will be ready for all of it this time around.
PRO MMA NOW: It wasn’t listed on your record from what I could find, but have you had any fights since the last Nashville card — if so, how did it go, and if not, how come the long lay off?
THOMAS CAMPBELL: Yeah I took like five months off after that fight doing a lot of training. Went to a couple of grappling tournaments to get back in that competitive mood again. I won a couple of them and was ready for a fight so we lined one up back in September or October. I picked up a win by a triangle/elbows in two minutes in the first round. I had two more fights lined up. One was in Nashville and I was back stage warming up and my opponent kicked something and broke his foot so I didn’t get to fight. Then I was supposed to fight Anthony Jones about three weeks ago but he came in 8-pounds over weight which pissed me off. So I’ve been itching to get back in the cage.
PRO MMA NOW: Man, that sucks. I was at the show when your opponent broke his foot before the show. I forgot about that. There was something else, weren’t you involved in that “SlapFest” Pankration event that was held awhile back – if so, what was that like?
THOMAS CAMPBELL: Yeah I was there for that. It was funny seeing the guys run around smacking the crap outta each other. My workout partner Zack Hicks was in it so I was cornering him for it. It was a lot of fun. He ended up winning it and got a really cool belt buckle (laughs).
PRO MMA NOW: I know you recently changed training camps. Can you talk a little about your new team, who they are and why you felt the need for a change?
THOMAS CAMPBELL: Yeah I am now training with Team Wildside with Clarksville Fight Club. Mike Merriman is my new head coach over there. He is very knowledgeable and skillful. He has helped me out a whole lot already. He sets high expectations every practice. I learn something new every time I go in the gym. I just felt like it was time for a change and a new challenge. I needed a new and different environment. Mike Merriman’s coaching style fits me better. He is very loud and verbal. He has that wrestling coach style that I like. He is not afraid to chew me out when I do something wrong or give me a slap on the ass when I do something good.
PRO MMA NOW: From what you can tell, has the change been positive for you and what has been the biggest benefit?
THOMAS CAMPBELL: Yeah so far so good. Can’t complain about anything yet other than the smell in the gym (laughs). They have welcomed me in and supported me since I first walked in the door making this transition very easy for me. They are an amazing group with a bunch of talented guys. They have like four other pros in my weight class, one of them being Chris Coggins who is also fighting on Strikeforce. He has been great to work with and pushing me everyday. He literally tries to kill me. We are all dedicated to the sport and share the same interest. It is also nice cause a couple of my workout partners came with me over here. So it’s nice to have new guys to workout with and still have the old ones there by my side.
PRO MMA NOW: So, you are fighting Jeremy Wallace on this upcoming card. How much do you know about him and how do you see yourself matching up? Is there anything about his game that concerns you or where you feel he is especially dangerous?
THOMAS CAMPBELL: Yeah me and Jeremy know each other. We have cross-trained with each other a lot of times. He even came down and helped me out for my last Strikeforce fight. So we know each other pretty well and we know what to expect from each other. He is a really good guy but I’m gonna have to hurt him (laughs) just kidding… but for real tho (laughs). No it’s all good, we have already talked to each other and we both know this is a big opportunity for both of us. We wouldn’t have fought each other if it was on another show. It’s gonna be a very tough fight for both of us. I can see us throwing down to the last bell and going to a split decision. I wouldn’t want to go three rounds with him cause I’m sure I would be going home all busted up and sore so if I see an opportunity to finish it I’m gonna take it. He is dangerous all around. He has a really good ground game. His stand up isn’t too well so I can see myself standing and trading some punches with him. I just want to put on a good show. Oh and get a win as well.
PRO MMA NOW: What are your ultimate goals in MMA Thomas and what is it going to take for you to reach those goals?
THOMAS CAMPBELL: I’m just going with the flow and just seeing where this takes me. I would love to eventually make it to the UFC since they merged and got the lower weight classes. I’m just busting my ass everyday and letting my training and coaches dictate how far I go. I love this sport. I get such a rush from it so my goal is just keep going til I can go anymore. I wanna make it to the top of course, cause who doesn’t. My biggest goal would probably be not to lose anymore cause those loses really take a lot outta me. I freakin hate losing. Thanks a lot Cody Floyd (laughs). No but for real I’m just having fun out there now. I’m not stressing or putting the pressure on me to win and be great. I know that if I work hard and train hard the rest will be easy.
PRO MMA NOW: What is life like for you outside of fighting; do you work anywhere, are you a family man, or have any things you like to do outside of fighting; what takes up your time when you aren’t training?
THOMAS CAMPBELL: There’s other stuff to do besides training (laughs) … I guess eating and sleeping (laughs). Fighting and training is all I pretty much do. This is my only job. I figure I would do this til I cant anymore then I will go get me a desk job somewhere. I don’t have a family of my own so it allows me to do what I want for now. I like doing the same things everyone else likes to do drugs, sex, and rock-n-roll right? (laughs) No I like going to the movies, hanging out with my friends, barbecuing, playing games, chilling with my girlfriend, and causing a little trouble from time to time but who doesn’t (laughs).
PRO MMA NOW: Thank you for your time Thomas. I wish you the best of luck on Jan. 7. If there’s anyone you want to shout out or any final words, go right ahead.
THOMAS CAMPBELL: Thank you guys! I would like to thank Mike Merriman my coach, my assistant coaches, Eric Chester, Mike Loyd, Nick Cascaddan, and Brian Marvin. Also, Zack Hicks, Chris Coggins, Mark Crawn and all the guys at Clarksville Fight Club for helping me get ready for this fight. Would like to thank some of my sponsors: Tuff Teeth for my custom mouthpiece, C. Roberts Concrete who has the best concrete around, Mr. D’s Philly Cheese Steak & Wings (wish I could have some now cause its so good), Pelham Construction, On Point Athletics for making some awesome shirts for me, Middle Tenn. Urban Development, Infuse Fight Gear check out their website they got some really cool stuff on there http://WWW.INFUSEFIGHTGEAR.COM and enter TC109 as the “Rep Code” so they know you are supporting me, and Empowerment Construction. A big thanks to ProMMAnow.com. They keep me updated on whats going on in the MMA world. Also a big thanks to all my family, friends, and fans for all the love and support.