Din Thomas is MMA’s first line of defense
By Joseph Myers
Din Thomas (25-8) is a true veteran of the mixed martial arts world, having started his pro career in 1998 and fighting for such organizations as the Ultimate Fighting Championships, SuperBrawl, Shooto, DEEP and even on one of Antonio Inoki's Bom-Ba-Ye New Year's Eve events. However, as Thomas prepares for his next fight, he finds himself in an unfamiliar role, that of a headliner on a pay-per-view card.
Thomas takes on former professional boxing world champion Ricardo Mayorga (0-0, 28-7-1 boxing) in Mayorga's MMA debut, which serves as the main event of Shine Fights Promotions' "Worlds Collide" pay-per-view card emanating from the Crown Coliseum in Fayetteville, N.C. this Saturday night.
I've done it all, but this is one of the times where I felt responsible to the promotion to help build the fights," said Thomas. "Especially when I was with the UFC, I was never really in the spotlight. I've never really had the obligation to sell it myself. This time, I feel a little bit of pressure to do well for these guys. There's a bit of an emotional attachment to these guys."
Thomas said he harbors no illusions about who people will be tuning in to see Saturday night, and it's not him. He said he expects fans of Mayorga's boxing to tune in and see how he does in the MMA world.
"Without a doubt, this is about Mayorga's MMA debut," Thomas said of the former WBA/WBC welterweight and WBC junior middleweight champion. "Most MMA fans watch the UFC and not much else. Mayorga fighting on this card opens us up to a new audience and we should thank him for putting himself out there. Myself and all of the other guys fighting on this card are going to get eyes on them that didn't see them before."
There are several other recognizable names on the card, as Murilo "Ninja" Rua takes on Travis Galbraith, Nick Thompson and Eduardo Pamplona square off, former Abu Dhabi Combat Club world champion Braulio Estima makes his MMA debut against Rick Hawn and Luiz Azeredo faces the always-unpredictable Charles "Krazy Horse" Bennett.
The Thomas-Mayorga fight was rumored for several weeks before it was even made official and Thomas said he had to work hard to be chosen as Mayorga's opponent.
"Basically what happend was Shine signed Mayorga to fight right after one of their previous shows, but he had no opponent," said Thomas. "He didn't want to fight someone who was just starting out. They had a list of guys who could be a good matchup for him and I was on it. I talked to my manager and he asked if I was interested and I lobbied my way into the fight. Next thing I know, I'm getting slapped on stage at a press conference in New York."
The Thomas-Mayorga fight will take place at a catch-weight of 160 pounds and Thomas, who walks around at just over 160 pounds, has been preparing at his customary home of American Top Team in Florida. With seven knockouts and 14 submissions in his 25 wins, Thomas said he has a distinct advantage over Mayorga in the number of ways he can win the fight.
"I train year round anyways, but when I have an opponent in mind it becomes more specific," said Thomas. "My problem getting ready for this fight has been finding sparring partners to mimic him. Everybody at ATT is so polished, but camp has been really good. I've been working on a lot of different things to capitalize on what (Mayorga) can do.
"My advantage is not that I have so many MMA fights and he doesn't. That's not my advantage. I think my advantage is my skillset. I can do many different things and he can just do one thing and that's punch." He continues.
"I can't fight his fight. There's two ways he can win this fight. One is for me to be dumb enough to stand with him and trade power punches or have him catch me with a shot out of nowhere. I can avoid those things by not standing toe-to-toe with him, which I don't do anyways, and just be aware of what he's doing. I have to keep him off balance and keep aware of his punches."
Don't expect a win over Mayorga, even as the main event of a pay-per-view card, to propel Thomas into a run with Strikeforce or the UFC. The 33-year-old Thomas, who was on the fourth season of The Ultimate Fighter, said that while being with a major promotion is good, it's not what he's looking for right now.
"I'm very happy with what I'm doing right now," said Thomas. "When I left the UFC (in 2008), I wanted to drop to 145 and go to the WEC, but I didn't want to jump back into a long-term deal with any organization. I just want to take things one fight at a time. Even with Shine, I only have a one-fight deal with them. I told Shine that I'd like to work with them again in the future. I like them and hope to work with them again in the future. I just don't like to be locked down to somebody and be unhappy."
Last week, boxing promoter Don King sent a cease-and-desist order to Shine Fights, saying it had an exclusive contract to promote Mayorga and his fights. However, Shine Fights has countered that King is Mayorga's boxing promoter and its contract with Mayorga to promote his MMA fights is valid. Thomas said he's confident Saturday's bout will come off without a hitch.
"(King's order) popped up at open workouts (last week) and while I've not talked to Shine about it officially, word was not to worry about it," said Thomas. "It's not a big deal. I didn't start to frown or anything. I've been training for a while for this fight and it will happen. Whatever Don King wants to do, it will happen and we're going to be throwing down May 15."