· Din Thomas ~ Life Is Like BJJ…
MMA Spot.net’s J. Andrew Yount caught up with Din ‘Dinyero’ Thomas (22-8) during his training for an upcoming fight for Evo MMA in Phoenix, Arizona on January 24th. Dinyero’s opponent will be Pat Miletich product Joe Pearson (30-13-1). The fight is scheduled to be the Main Event on the card. A card that features other names like Drew Fickett, Ryan Healy, and Junior Assuncao. The fight marks Thomas’ first fight since his UFC release and a return to the 145 lbs division for the once top 5 ranked lightweight. We asked Din about life outside of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, and trying to secure fights that would provide him with the financial benefits and exposure that a fighter of his caliber covets and deserves. Thomas said, “More and more the fight game is becoming like Hollywood. Fighters are like actors. Everybody wants to be in a big movie but sometimes it’s just not the right situation or the right movie. I almost feel like Vincent Chase during the last few episodes of “Entourage”. I couldn’t really get the gigs that I wanted to I just have to wait my turn, be patient, and keep swinging.”
About his return to 145 lbs., and the things he’d like to accomplish, he had plenty to say. “Going to 145 was always the goal. I was still in the octagon after my fight with Josh Neer when I made the decision to go to 145. That was the reason I bowed to the crowd after the decision. I knew that would be the last time my bare feet would grace the canvas of the octagon. I had one fight left with the UFC on my contract. I don’t know if they would have dropped me or not. But I just felt like, I had gotten so close to getting the title and failed that it was time to move on and try a different strategy to prove my worth. 155 is so deep in the US and Japan, and two loses in a row set me back so far. 145 has some good fighters but the depth isn’t the same. I could be fighting the top guys after just a few fights.” Always one to seek a challenge the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) black belt had a few names on a short list of potential opponents in his weight division. “My goal was to go down and get a crack at Urijah Faber. But he lost his title to Mike Brown. I don’t think Faber can beat Brown. Hell, I don’t think I can beat Mike Brown and we train together. There’s only one other guy out there that I would like to fight at 145 and that’s Kid Yamamoto. He’s the champ in Japan and he’s fun to watch. I think a fight with him could go in the record books.”
A fight with Mike Brown or Urijah Faber would obviously mean a reunion with Zuffa under the World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) banner, but it’s a door that Din has certainly either left open or feels at least welcome to knock on. When he thinks back on the success of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) and his place in it, he has nothing but glowing things to say about his employer for nine of his thirty fights, and the television network that made ‘Dinyero’ a household name. “I’m quite surprised by the success. Thank Dana White and the Ferrtita brothers. Believe me, I may not be signed with the UFC but I still reap the benefits from them just because they are the biggest show in the world. The success of the UFC is success for my school. So as long as people at the bars are watching, I always have free advertisement. So I support the UFC 100%. Plus Spike TV still plays me and I ain’t got nothing but love for the people at Spike. Shout out to Wayne, Greg, Andrea and the whole crew. With that said, the best place in the world to fight, is for the UFC in Las Vegas. Nothing tops that.” On his relationships with the people in charge of making the UFC the best game in town, Thomas would say, “Dana is a rock star now and you can’t get close to him unless you want to stand in a line with groupies. But I always make it a point to speak to the one Ferrtita brother [Lorenzo] when he sees me. I rap with the staff all the time. Joe Silva seemed to come at me sideways sometimes since I was released but I ain’t got no beef with them.”
Along with Mike Brown, the current WEC 145 lbs Champion, Thomas has spent years training at American Top Team with some of the best fighters in the world. Fighters such as, Jeff Monson, Thiago Alves, Denis Kang, Thiago Silva, Antonio Silva, and many more of the sports biggest names. As far as whom he sees as the best practitioners in different disciplines, Din has an obvious affinity towards ATT fighters. “The best pure wrestler is Ben Askren. Best boxer is Dyah Davis (Howard Davis’ son). Best BJJ is Marcelo Garcia. Most dedicated on and off the mat is JZ Calvacante. Best up and comer is Tyron Woodley. Best student of the game is Luigi Fioravante. So that I’m not biased toward ATT guys, the best pure MMA coach outside of ATT is Mark Dellagrotti.” With that lineup, and others, ATT is definitely at the pinnacle of MMA when it comes to their stable of fighters. Being a part of that as a fighter and trainer can be a great tool for development. “It’s a tough room to have a good day in. So when you have a good day, you have to be proud of yourself. The other day we trained and Yves Edwards made a remark about how it was empty but there was still twenty guys there, and six guys our weight that compete in high level shows. During a normal day, it’s at least double that.” Thomas went on to discuss the future of ATT and the crop of up and coming fighters that may soon be taking the sport by storm, mentioning guys like Tyron Woodley, Rich Attonito, and of course Mario Rinaldi (5’11 280 lbs. submission specialist), but you may have already heard of him.
Thomas, in his thirties, knows he will not be able to fight forever, but still believes he has a lot of fun and good fights left in him. “I have contemplated retirement many times. As soon as something better comes along, I will walk away with my head up. Find me something as fun as punching somebody in the head, and I’ll do it.” He also contributes the decline of notable stars such as Matt Hughes, Chuck Liddell, and most recently Wanderlei Silva to more than just age. “Each of them have their own flaws but the only thing consistent between the three is that it’s difficult to maintain the same level of hunger and intensity forever. But sometimes when you are so good and dominant at one thing, you never really develop in other areas. In order to be competitive, you must always maintain the outlook of a rookie looking to improve.” In his own words, Thomas believes that the three most important attributes to have when competing in MMA are, “Dedication, Desire, and Discipline.”.
In the event that Thomas does decide to retire from competitive combat sports, he is already hard at work with his second career, as an instructor and business operator. The American Top Team (ATT) veteran has opened his own ATT branch in Port St. Lucie, Florida. As he began to talk about the venture, you could instantly feel the passion oozing from Thomas as he spoke, “Running my own academy is the best decision I made yet. I was going to school to be a school teacher prior to this. But having my own academy I am a teacher, the principal, and the DEAN (no pun intended). I get to do what I love and I’m surrounded by people who do what they love and I love. It’s not easy because you have to run it as a business first and most fighters don’t understand that or business.” His approach to teaching and philosophy are guaranteed to make Din’s students and fighters successful for years to come. “Martial Arts teach you to be diligent. Nowadays everybody seems to be crying about the economy. Its not as good as we would like. I know, I get it, and I understand. But I feel like people are just giving up and complaining and waiting for a miracle. Get off your ass and do something about it. Life is like training in BJJ. Sometimes you get mounted. Sometimes a guy will have your back. But you have to fight out of it. You keep going. You may have to tap every once in a while and start over, but you keep fighting. Some guys will put pressure on you just like in life, how will your respond?“ When pressed, Dinyero’s best advice to young fighters looking to get into the business was, “Take your time. And it looks much easier on TV than it is in real life.”
Outside of the cage and off the mat, Thomas has many projects in the works or available. Other than projects like The Ultimate Fighter – The Comeback, he has worked on several film projects. In 2006, he co-starred in the independent, award winning Loren Cass. Loren Cass is a film about mid-nineties adolescent angst. In the film Thomas portrays a “near to life” youngster known as “the Fight Kid”. Thomas’ latest project, MMA Legacy is currently in post production. MMA Legacy is directed by James Hergott and is a documentary about MMA fighters. The film’s cast includes Jason Chambers (Human Weapon), BJ Penn, Eddie Bravo, Thomas, and other mixed martial artists. More details about MMA Legacy and it’s 2009 release are sure to come in the near future. As for Din’s projects and interests outside of fighting, he summed it all up well by saying, “I love to do anything that allows me to express my creativity. Whether it is cooking, painting, music, whatever…”
“ I’d like to give a shout out to all my guys helping me train and handling business for me allowing me to prepare for my fight. Dandooskie, Buboy Steve, Marty Mar, Espo, Mario, and Fightresource.com.” – Din ‘Dinyero’ Thomas
To pick up a copy of Loren Cass on DVD: http://www.amazon.com/Tabish-Travis-...0951970&sr=8-1
To learn more about Din Tomas’ academy, ATT – Port St. Lucie: http://www.attpsl.com/
by J. Andrew Yount