by Mick Hammond – MMAWeekly.com
There are few fighters in the world as naturally charismatic as Din Thomas. A veteran of MMA for seven years, Thomas rarely fails to entertain inside or outside the ring. After taking all of 2004 off, Thomas returned to fighting this year and has looked impressive in his return.
Recently Thomas, the head instructor of America Top Team’s Port St. Lucie Chapter in Florida, took the time out of his training schedule to speak to MMA Weekly to discuss a variety of things. Among the topics Din talked about was why he took 2004 off, what’s ahead for himself, and how he feels he could do if given a shot at Takanori Gomi.
MMA Weekly: First off Din, you took all of 2004 off. Can you tell us why you didn’t fight at all last year?
Din Thomas: That was very much a conscience decision. I’ve fighting since like 1997. Since that time I did nothing but fight. I sacrificed so much in order to pursue a dream. At that time when I made my decision to take some time off, I was about 27 years old. A lot of my friends, out of the fight game, had made money, acquired homes, nice cars, and had good stability. I was 27 years old, broke, no crib, drove a beat up 96 Mazda Protégé, and was struggling. So I thought, I can either try to live like P. Diddy or Fred Sanford.
MMA Weekly: You returned to action this year, can tell us how you feel your year has gone so far and if there is a difference between Din circa 2003 and the Din of today?
Din Thomas: There’s not really much difference between me then and me now. But there’s a big difference between me now and the Din of 2001. I was much hungrier back then. I don’t think the time off has really affected me as much as the time in has. I’m like an old veteran and I shouldn’t be. This is why I took some smaller fights. In order for me to get my appetite for blood back I have to think, act, and be a rookie. Even if it means fighting in small shows to rebuild.
MMA Weekly: Over the last year the lightweight division has exploded in Japan. What are your thoughts on having to possibly go overseas to get the quality of bouts that you might have been able to get in the States just a couple years ago?
Din Thomas: I blame the problems with the lightweight division in the US on the MMA community for placing so much emphasis on the scale instead of the fighter. On TV if you didn’t really know how much a guy weighs, you wouldn’t be able to tell. Could you really tell the difference between 170lbs and 155lbs if you were just watching and didn’t know who was fighting? However, I must admit, you would be able to distinguish a heavyweight because they would, more than likely, be chubby. But as fans of MMA, we should embrace all fighters no matter the size. Say what you want but there’s no division in MMA as stacked at the 155lbs division. Every division has about 5 guys who could win on a night. The 155lbs division has about 20. I dare anybody to disagree. As for going overseas, I’m not sure I deserve that level of action right now in my career. There are guys that deserve it more than me right now.
MMA Weekly: This year both Pride and K-1 held lightweight tournaments that included fighters you defeated. What’s it like to see guys you’ve beaten get these kinds of opportunities and not you?
Din Thomas: I’ll tell you a story. My last fight in Japan, I fought in DEEP. DEEP, like every Japanese organization that comes to mind, is very well run, professional, and organized. However, if you’re not a big dog in Japan with a big budget, then your show is probably small scale. Of course, DEEP doesn’t have the budget like some other big shows there. So we pulled up to the venue, which happens to be across the street from this enormous arena where Hermes Franca was to be fighting in K-1 the next weekend. Dustin Denes said to me, “Look. There’s where Hermes is fighting in K-1 next week.” I looked back at him, smiled, and said, “So this is what my career has diminished to.”
MMA Weekly: Pride has brought in fellow ATT fighters Marcus “Maximus” Aurelio and Aaron Riley for their Bushido series. What kind of impact do you feel you and your charisma could make in Pride?
Din Thomas: Pride has done some amazing things for lightweights. We are grateful for the opportunities that they have presented. The only thing that hurts me about Pride is the weight limit. I am a 155lbs fighter. Pride’s weight limit is 160lbs. If you don’t think this is a big difference ask most of the guys in Pride. A lot of them can’t even make 155lbs. And if they did make 155lbs, they wouldn’t be the same fighter. That difference changes the dynamics of the game. I truthfully think that is what happened in the Kawajiri/Gomi fight. Gomi just looked bigger and more dominant. Kawajiri is used to being the bigger, more dominant fighter. I think if that fight were done at a lighter weight, it would have been different. The outcome could have been the same but the fight would have been different. But that’s just a bad match up for Kawajiri. As far as my role in Pride, I think that I am one of the few fighters that could give Gomi fits. I believe Yves Edwards could do it too. The reason is the style match up. Gomi, right now is the best lightweight. He knocks people out…that are willing to stand and trade shots with him. He’s never fought somebody as elusive and sharp as me. My stand up game is unlike anybody else’s in the sport. It’s not necessarily better, it’s just different from anybody else’s and for this reason, I would give any standup fighter a problem. Regardless, fighting at the level is a beast. I would have to have my A-game, something I haven’t seem to produce in a while. For now, it’s back to the drawing board and then I’ll be calling Pride.
MMA Weekly: What kind of plans do you have for the remainder of 2005? Do you plan to fight again or take the rest of the year off?
Din Thomas: As far as this year, I have a loaded plate. I anticipate fighting at least once this year, maybe twice. Like I said though, I’m now treating myself like an up and comer. I will more than likely fight in smaller shows to get my A-game back. Between that, my academy, and I just had a son, Ethon. It keeps me busy. I also just got done filming another short indie film. I’m also doing stage acting. Believe it or not, I’m not just some crossover, trying to get stardom. My work is quite technical.
MMA Weekly: What kind of plans do you have for yourself beyond this year?
Din Thomas: Life for me is like a trip to Vegas, except I gamble with time, not money. I intend on spending the most time, playing the most games until I win a big payday. Since 1997, I’ve been sitting at the same table playing the same game. Now it’s time to venture through the rest of the casino and see what else is out there. Speaking of Vegas, Isn’t the UFC planning on bringing back the lightweight division? Dana White/Joe Silva listen up, I’ll be exciting. Don’t you worry about that. I’m also one of the few guys that can do it without looking sloppy.
MMA Weekly: Before we head out, let’s talk a bit about the ATT Port St. Lucie chapter that you run. How are things going there and how does teaching compare to fighting?
Din Thomas: Things at the academy are really good. I have a good group of people that I work with. I love going to work every day. I work with the kids and women and it’s just a lot of fun. Fighting is like waiting all day in line to ride the scream machine at Six Flags. You wait, you wait, and you wait. Then you ride and before you know it, its over and you don’t even remember what happened. You just remember one brief moment of excitement. Then you can chuckle with your friends about it. All your friends will be envious of you for doing it. They tell you they want to do it but after an hour in line, they get out. But you get back in and it’s addicting. Teaching is totally different. It’s like having a big aquarium of colorful, salt-water fish. You get to feed them, watch them grow, and unfortunately let some of them go. Watching fish is also addicting and very rewarding.
MMA Weekly: Thanks very much for the interview Din. Is there anything you’d like to say as we head out?
Din Thomas: What’s up to all my boy at the academy: James, Nate, Big Mario, Dan the PC, Bill Mino, Rocky, Don C. and the Force, Sean (Brad Pitt), Eric, Jordon, Scott, Chris, Vero and the Mean Girls – you know I luv ya, JK!, all my squad from Vero, TinaXXX, Brotha Him, White Boy Robbie, Uma Plata and Fasha Preta, Bird Flu, Manny, Frank, Corey, Danger, my hittas at the Amory in Jupiter, Puma, Clean, Drip, and everybody else. I ain’t forget you. Check out my Tips of the Day updated daily, which you can link from my website www.attpsl.com. And last and definitely not least all the media that’s looked out for me even in my absence, Mick Hammond, Scott Peterson, Keith Mills, Billy Curry, Tom Gerbasi, Josh Gross, and if I forgot you, that means you forgot about me.