In this article, we dive into the past career of Din Thomas. Thomas is now a retired mixed martial artist who featured on ‘The Ultimate Fighter 4. Thomas is a UFC 41 Lightweight tournament semi-finalist. He holds a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu under Ricardo Liborio and currently runs two successful Jiu-Jitsu gyms in Florida.
Mixed Martial Arts Career
Before the move to the UFC occurred, Thomas held a 12–1 MMA record including wins over Jens Pulver who went on to become the first UFC Lightweight Champion. Thomas made his official UFC debut at UFC 32 against BJ Penn which unfortunately didn’t go in the Americans’ favor. He then returned at UFC 33 by defeating Fabiano Iha and proving that he can compete at the highest level.
Thomas returned to the regional scene taking two fights before fighting under the UFC once again. With three back to back wins ‘Dinyero’ dropped a decision to Japanese hotshot Caol Uno in their rematch at UFC 39.
Next in line for Thomas was a fight vs former Welterweight Champion Matt Serra. This bout proved to be controversial due to one of the judges making an error with the scorecards awarding Matt Serra the victory. The mistake was discovered and Thomas. In turn, his team was notified that in fact he had won the fight and would be given the victory. This would then be Thomas’s last bout under the promotion in three years.
Those three years saw Thomas pick up victory’s in the regional scene circuit across America as well as venture into boxing bouts. With 1 fight being declared a draw and with 1 win the boxing stint was a success.
In 2006 Thomas returned to the UFC featuring as a contestant on ‘The Ultimate Fighter 4’ by defeating Mikey Burnett via triangle choke in round one, before losing to training partner Chris Lytle in the semi-finals. Thomas returned at the finale on November 11, 2006, to face Rich Clementi, winning via rear-naked choke in the second round. Thomas then built an impressive win streak by securing wins over Clay Guida and Jeremy Stephens. Next on the radar were bouts with former UFC lightweight title challenger Kenny Florian and Josh Neer who was riding a two-fight win streak at the time. Two tough losses back to back seen the end to ‘Dinyero’s’ UFC career.
Thomas decided to drop a weight class and compete at Featherweight. He debuted at featherweight against Dustin Pieken securing a triangle choke in the first round. He has followed that up with TKO wins over Gabe Lemley and Dustin Pague before losing to Georgi Karakhanyan and calling it a day on his great career. On January 2, 2014, Thomas announced his retirement from mixed martial arts.
Besides being a competitor and taking on the toughest of challenges in his mixed martial arts career. Thomas has been coaching since the early days of MMA. He started coaching at Mike Metzger’s Internal Power Karate School in 1999. Thomas owned multiple MMA and Jiu-Jitsu gyms until he was recruited to become one of the coaches at highly prolific American Top Team in 2015. Thomas had been associated with ATT for a very long time and in March 2020, announced that he had departed from ATT in order to pursue his own MMA camp.
What did it mean to you to be fighting under the UFC and have the opportunity to showcase your skill-set on the biggest stage of them all?
Thomas – “At the time I fought in the UFC, it wasn’t what it is today. In fact, I turned down the first opportunity I got to fight in the UFC. The asked me to fight Jens Pulver, but I turned it down to take a fight in Hawaii against Bozo Pauling at Superbrawl. I really just wanted to go to Hawaii. Obviously, I wanted to fight on the the biggest stages possible, but doing cool stuff was also important.”
You’ve fought big names and tough competition throughout your career. Names such as Bj Penn, Matt Serra, and Kenny Florian. Out of all the 35 bouts you had, who was your toughest contest inside the cage, and why?
Thomas – “Everybody will ask me who was the toughest and that’s a very difficult question to answer because they were all tough in their own way. Some were so determined mentally to not give up. Some were so physically tough they could take anything I dished out. I can’t really put a finger on who exactly was the toughest for me. At the end of every fight, I always felt, “damn, he was really tough. I’m glad I got through that”.
Was there a point in your career when something clicked and you knew the time was right to retire and step away from competing?
Thomas – “Well the type of fighter I am, I consider myself more of a performer and an artist. Fighting was just my platform to perform. I stepped away when I couldn’t physically perform to the best of my abilities. Age caught up to me. Injuries haunted me. I took my performance talents to another platform – acting and improve. Since I have an outlet to perform, I never looked back on fighting and wanted to never come out of retirement.”
If you could highlight the best moment in your fighting career, which stands out for you, and gives you a sense of pride, what would that one moment be?
Thomas – “I do think beating Jens Pulver in WEF was the highlight of my career. Pulver was the number 1 guy in the world. He had fought in the UFC. He was the man. That fight, put me on the map. Obviously, the Jeremy Stephens fight was probably the most high profile fight considering it was on UFC 71 and I got submission of the night. But like my buddy Josh Cohen always says, “what’s popular isn’t always better”.
Onto the coaching side of the game, was coaching something you always knew you wanted to do after fighting, was it something you were always passionate about?
Thomas – “I was always coaching throughout my entire Martial Arts career. Back in 1995, nobody knew anything. So whatever I knew and learned I had to teach my friends, so that we could train. By 1998 I was teaching “Vale Tudo” late nights in a Karate school in Orlando. By 1999 I ,along with Jamie Levine and Mike Black opened the first true MMA school in Orlando, The United Champions of Martial Arts. So as I was fighting, I was always coaching and training guys under me.
Then in 2004, I opened an American Top Team affiliated academy in Port St Lucie, Fl. I used to coach the best amateurs in the state. I would drive them to Louisiana 3 or 4 times a month to fight because amateur fighting wasn’t legal in Florida until a year later. Coaching came with the territory. Now that I’m done competing, I’m a better coach because I am not filtering the game through my lens as a fighter. I filter the game through the eyes of the fighter.”
You spent 19 years with ATT. How hard was it for you to leave and move on, and what’re the plans for the future of your coaching career?
Thomas – “American Top Team was my family. They will always hold a special place in my heart. I just knew it was time to move on and get something going on my own. I still plan to coach fighters and still would like to help fighters reach their maximum potential.”
Lastly, I have to ask as a fan and my love for the series with Dana and Matt, The chemistry between the three of use is great tv. How fun is it filming ‘Dana White Looking For A Fight’?
Thomas – “Looking For A Fight is stupid fun. We are just old dudes with a lot of history together that refuse to grow up. The crew just films that and its magic.”
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