Nick Thompson is as articulate as you would expect an aspiring lawyer to be, but his mixed martial arts background is not for the faint of heart.
Thompson was an OK wrestler at Eastview High School. He went to Wisconsin and was not a factor as a wrestler there.
"One of my buddies, Nick Michelson, took me to a mixed martial arts card in Racine [Wis.]," Thompson said. "It looked like something I'd like to try, even though I had no experience in boxing or martial arts."
Thompson started training for this form of fighting five years ago. He gained entry into the University of Minnesota Law School three years ago. Those moments have come together now for a four-day period of pressure (from the Saturday night fight to a Wednesday conclusion of the bar) that seems incomprehensible.
How was it Thompson seemed so calm as he went through one of his daily workouts this week at the Minnesota Martial Arts Academy in Brooklyn Park?
"I took the fight five weeks ago," he said. "I haven't cut corners in training. I've worked around it to find as many hours as I can to study."
He smiled slightly and said, "Hopefully, I can go 2-0."
Thompson's fighting career did not get off to a hopeful start. "I was knocked out frequently in practice," he said. "I would just faint away. The fighters said I was like a 'fainting goat.' "
Thus, the nickname: Nick (The Goat) Thompson.
"It's a great nickname because it was given to me," he said. "It's not something I made up, or a promoter made up, as is the case with most people in our sport and in boxing."
Thompson talks in an articulate style that seems more suited to a courtroom than a fighting gym. He also is very short on the prominent tattoos you see in the combat sports.
"I only had one small tattoo, before I took the plunge recently," he said.
Thompson pulled up his left sleeve. There were two black smudges bracketing "Nick" on his bicep. "It's a goat hoof," he said.
He started his career as a light heavyweight (185 pounds) and was a so-so 18-8-1. He decided to become leaner and meaner and compete as a welterweight (170 pounds).
"Whenever I'm training, I'm also dieting," he said. "I take two, three weeks off, eat pizza, eat anything, and I'll shoot up to 220 pounds."
Thompson is 18-1 as a welterweight. The victory that made him a big attraction with the fighting crowd was a TKO over Eddie Alvarez in April 2007 in St. Petersburg, Russia.
The TKO made Thompson the welterweight champion for Bodog Fighting. Bodog then ceased its fighting operations, leaving Thompson as a welterweight champion into perpetuity.
His next organization was Sengoku in Japan. He had two winning fights, in front of crowds advertised at 25,000 and more.
"Over here, you're in a fight and the crowd is screaming at all times," he said. "In Japan, the fans are quiet until something meaningful happens, and then they applaud. Our crowds like the violence. The Japanese fans are into the strategy of the holds and the strikes."
The fight with Shields will be Thompson's first for EliteXC (Extreme Combat) and is for the organization's first-ever welterweight title. He'll travel to Stockton on the Wednesday before the fight. One week later, he will be finishing Minnesota's bar examination.
This could offer a new reason for Nick's nickname: A person has to be stubborn as a goat to try a pull off this body-bashing, brain-testing doubleheader in a cramped period of time.
Patrick Reusse can be heard weekdays on AM-1500 KSTP at 6:45 and 7:45 a.m. and at 4:40 p.m. • firstname.lastname@example.org