There’s very little doubt that true mixed martial arts fans—and perhaps a few film buffs, are well acquainted with Din Thomas.
A true veteran of the sport, the man they call “Dinyero” made his first appearance inside the Octagon at UFC 32 after winning 12 of his first 13 professional bouts, including an upset victory over Jens Pulver in mid-2000.
Although Thomas would fall short against the then 1-0 BJ Penn—a man that would go on to become one of the greatest mixed martial artists of all time, “Dinyero” has since stepped into the Octagon eight times, notching victories over Matt Serra, Clay Guida, and Jeremy Stephens.
After parting ways with the UFC in mid-2008 following back-to-back losses at the hands of Kenny Florian and Josh Neer, Thomas dropped down in weight from lightweight to featherweight in February of 2009 and is undefeated with three wins since doing so.
To say that Thomas is a busy man may be an understatement, as the owner of multiple American Top Team affiliate gyms in Florida, Thomas has also appeared in a number of films and theatre productions—all while attending the odd impov class.
Recently, Thomas took time out of his busy schedule to sit down for an exclusive interview over the telephone.Ed Kapp: How is life for Din Thomas these days?
Busy, busy, busy. I’ve been very busy. When you run three schools, you try to have the three best schools—well really two-and-a-half, but we try to make them as good as they can possibly be—it’s a full-time job. I mean, it’s like two full-time jobs. Two-and-a-half full-time jobs, working with the schools and then you’ve got fighters that want to compete and grappling tournaments and kids, you know? It’s crazy.Din Thomas: Did you ever think that you’d own three gyms? Was that something you planned on doing?
I just kind of fell into it, I really didn’t want none of ‘em (laughs). What it is really is martial arts changes lives. I don’t mean to give you a sales-pitch, but it does change lives and if I can spread what I know, and what I’ve learned, and how it’s helped me, then that’s what I’m going to do, you know? So that’s the reason why I have my schools and I’m involved in these different places because I want to spread it as far as I can, you know—but without sacrificing my integrity. So this is it for me, this is all I can handle, but I want to spread it as far as I can and help people as much as I can, so really that’s why I have these schools.
EK: How often do you teach classes?
DT: I teach every day.
EK: Every day?
EK: What do you feel is your greatest asset as a coach?
DT: I think my mentality—it’s my mentality. I’m really, really, really easy to get along with, I’m easygoing and people like to work with me just for that reason. I’m not the type of coach that yells at people, I feel like, either you want it or you don’t, you know? You either want to win or you don’t want to win. If you don’t want to win you might want find a new place to train. If you want to win, I’m going to help you.
In fact, I’m a bit lazy, in a sense, not my work ethic, but just I think sometimes people work too hard at the wrong stuff. I think by having more of a lazy mentality it increases the technology of what we’re doing and it makes everything we do a bit more efficient, so as opposed to working hard at the wrong stuff, I like to work hard at the right stuff and it takes kind of a lazy attitude to find out what works more efficient.
I think so much—I’m introverted, that I think a lot, that I’m able to actually find out what works better than other things and I think people like to work with me for that reason.
EK: How many students do you teach at your academies?
DT: It varies, really, it varies by the program, you know? We have probably close to 200 students at my one school and my other school is pretty new, so we have about a hundred there. I’m really not going to stop until I get 500 in each.
EK: What would you say is your proudest moment as a coach?
DT: You know, my proudest moment as a coach, one of my instructors, he fought with me, he’s one of my instructors now, but he was fighting—fighting a really tough kid. I home-grown this kid, my student, I home-grown him—he came in off the street, came in with no experience, he was a nerd. He wanted to fight, and he had an incredible work ethic and I trained him from birth, you know? From nothin’. I saw him when he went to fight—in fact he lost his first fight, he got tore up. But like I said, he had work ethic and he was a hungry kid and came back and won like four straight fights in a row and he fought for the amateur title—that had to be my proudest moment when he fought for the amateur title against a really tough kid and just knocked this dude out. It was exciting just to watch your product, you know? That you raised since the birth of his fighting career do something like that, so that was my proudest moment as a coach.
EK: I read that you’re pursuing your degree, what’s the status on that?
DT: (laughs) Ah, limited. I’m probably still going to pursue my degree it’s just when you get deep into the business of martial arts, you know, it’s hands-on training, you know, pursuing your degree in the martial arts business. So really, that’s where my head is at now, but I’m still going to go back to school—but schools not going anywhere, that’s the thing, schools not going nowhere. I’m not a fan of when people say, ‘you got to hurry up and go to school,’ you know? I wouldn’t even tell my own kid you got to go to school. You’ve got to do something, don’t get me wrong—I’m not saying don’t go to school. You’ve got to do something, you’ve got to work, got to put some hours in, you’ve got to work hard, but I’m not a fan of going straight from high-school to college and that whole mindset of pursuing a degree. I think it’s helpful, because it teaches you how to think, but it’s always going to be there—that’s what I’m saying, school is always going to be there and I’m still going to go.
EK: What type of degree were you pursuing?
DT: Initially I was pursuing a degree in history. I would still like to continue that but, believe it or not, I’m actually thinking about pursuing a degree in the arts—some type of drama or something.
EK: You’ve been acting for a while now, how do you like that?
DT: I love it. Even more now, I’m doing improv now—that is quite an animal.
EK: How often do you do that?DT: I do it about once a week—I need to do it more.
EK: When did you first get in to improve?
DT: I started this a couple months ago. I’m not very good at it yet, but, you know.
EK: I read that every year you spend a few weeks teaching an anti-bullying seminar?
DT: Yeah, that’s a program we offer in our school—two weeks of the year, we dedicate it just towards dealing with bullies and we have a set curriculum that myself and my instructors have come up with to deal with bullies. We do a lot of role-playing, because every situation is different, you can’t totally mimic everything and quite get it down from a book. So we dedicate a week every six months towards anti-bullying. There’s a lot of role-playing and we have a set curriculum that we follow, that we’ve written, and we’ve worked at. But this year, what we also did, was, just a few weeks ago we held an anti-bullying seminar at my school that was open to the public, and that worked out really well, actually. It’s a little difficult to do it in one day, in fact it was like an hour—it was very difficult to do it in an hour, considering all the variables that can happen in a bully situation but we made it work for us.
EK: How many kids showed up?
DT: We had about 50 kids show up.
EK: Have you done this at all of your schools?
DT: We were just trying it out in my one school—my new school, but we’ll probably do it again in another school and just keep it movin’. Again, I like to reach out and help people. If I can do that—help people—that’s what I’m going to do.
EK: Who else is involved in that with you?
DT: Just my head instructors. I know actually that Ricardo Liborio was actually planning on doing one in Coconut Creek and he was asking me for some help, so I’m not sure when or if he’s going to do that—but I know that Ricardo Liborio was planning on holding one in Coconut Creek.
EK: I spoke with Trevor Wittman, out in Colorado, and he’s also putting on anti-bullying seminars.
DT: Yeah, there’s a big market for it. People are somewhat afraid these days, afraid that their kids will get bullied, but at the end of the day, like I said, I think martial arts is the best thing you can do for a kid who’s afraid of bullies. It’s really difficult to get in one day, or even a week sometimes. The bully weeks that we do, incorporate into our program, just reinforce what we teach them all year long. I think the kids that are in our programs have a much better advantage.
EK: Do you plan on doing more of these seminars in the future?
DT: Oh yeah, for sure, for sure. Absolutely. I know a lot of schools use it as a tool to get students—without a doubt, that’s always in the back of everyone’s mind, and when we first did it, we we’re thinking maybe we could get some new students off this, but as we started to really get into it and prepare—you know, when we did it there we’re no specials, no salesmen on staff, we really just reached out to the community just to give them a hand, you know what I’m saying? We didn’t try to sell anybody anything, we didn’t go in the intent to have a big sales-pitch—we really were trying to help the kids out.
EK: How important is giving back to the community to you?
DT: Very important, very important. You know, it’s sickening sometimes—I always think back to when I was in high-school coming up, we couldn’t have been this bad to our elders—I don’t think I was. Sometimes I look at these kids—I drive through the neighbourhood, I look at these kids and I’m like, ‘these kids need help.’ It’s terrible, it’s sickening, these kids are so easily influenced by music and TV that they have no concept of reality—they have no real guidance. It’s sickening, and that’s why I’m trying to do the best I can to save some people, or else we’re going to be in trouble. Everybody talks about saving the Earth, you know, we have beach clean-ups and recycling, but man, we’ve got to save the kids!
EK: What else are you interested in?
DT: Oh boy (laughs), that’s a good question.
EK: Take your time.
DT: I don’t know if I have many other interests other than that, really. Every once in a while I try to watch a bunch of movies, but everything I do revolves around two things—acting and fighting (laughs), acting and fighting. Everything I do, I’ll make it revolve around it.
EK: Which actors do you look up to?DT: I like a lot of different actors. I like Johnny Depp—Johnny Depp is probably my favourite, really. He’s got great range. You put me on the spot here, now (laughs). I like Chiwetel Ejiofor—he’s a black guy, he was in a movie with Don Cheadle.
EK: Hotel Rwanda?
DT: No, not that one—he was in the other movie with Don Cheadle. He played the radio guy. He was also in Red Belt.
EK: If you could work with one director, who would it be?
DT: What one director? Probably any (laughs). I don’t know, if I could work with one director it would probably be somebody like, Gus—what’s his name? Gus Van...
EK: Van Sant, I think?
DT: Yeah, the guy who did ‘Good Will Hunting’—he’s got a creative approach to his films, you know, and I like that. I try to study and be as creative as possible, believe me, nothing against big-budget films, but I like the process.
EK: How did you get into the film industry? What is it something you always wanted to do?
DT: What happened was, back in 2004 I was living down in Coconut Creek and training and I was just, I think it was just before my Matt Serra fight and I was signing up for classes—again I was taking classes and I needed an elective. I was training all day so my schedule didn’t permit me to take many classes so it was like ‘Cooking 101’ and ‘Basket Weaving,’ and then there was ‘Appreciation for Theatre’—it was scheduled at the best time, so I took that and the instructor, Don Butler, was just an amazing guy and we got to talking one day and he said ‘you know what, you should try acting,’ and I said, ‘I ain’t sure.’ Since then I’ve been taking acting classes and I did some stage work for them—I mean not too much, I don’t want to come off like a big-shot, but whenever I’m not training or fighting that’s what I’m interested in.
EK: How often do you attend acting classes?
DT: A couple of years ago I was going pretty regularly, but when I was fighting I’ve got to put that on hold—for pretty much everything.Off and on, what is it 2011 now? Off and on I’ve been at it for about seven years, but again, it’s not seven consistent years, it’s like a semester here, a semester there, a semester here, goof off around with my boys.
EK: Were you at all apprehensive about getting into film?
DT: No not at all, because I didn’t put any expectations on it. I wasn’t one of those guys, like, ‘yeah, I’m going to make a big movie, and I’m a move to Hollywood and be rich and famous’—nah, I never did that, I do it for fun. When you have a passion, and you do things for fun, what is there to be scared about? I don’t care what happens, you know, if I never make another movie in my life—I don’t care, but if I do, I’m going to do it to the best of my abilities. I wasn’t trying to seek it to become rich and famous; I just do it because it’s a lot of fun. In fact at some time this year, what I’m planning on doing, actually—I’m going to attempt to start a small production company and shoot small films.
EK: What does that entail—starting a production company?
DT: I’m not sure, yet (laughs). When you have a vision you make it happen—a vision is more important than anything else, and I’ve got a vision. I intend on getting a hold of the right people—some film guys with some cameras, and a good editor, and I know some actors and some very funny people. What I want to do is make short films—probably mostly for YouTube than anything else.
EK: And that’s later on in 2011?
DT: Yeah, hopefully after the summer I can get some things together.
EK: Do you have any other film projects on the go?
DT: No, nothing lined up now— anything at all, actually. Like I said, when I focus on one thing, you know I have my hands in those three different areas, but when I’m focused on one thing, I’m totally focused on one thing—and right now my focus is one fighting, not really acting—except the improv I’ve been doing but that’s not acting, that’s just running around.
EK: Do you think that the improv you’ve been doing helps you as an actor?
DT: Yeah, it does, it keeps you on your toes. At this point right now—I enjoy doing improv a little bit more than acting because it’s not a lot of preparation that you need to do, it’s just practise and being silly—in a sense, you know, it’s just practise and being silly. Acting is a lot of preparation and there’s a lot of focus involved, improv is just being silly.
EK: What do you think would be more difficult, life as a mixed martial artist or life as an actor?
DT: Probably life as an actor—it’s so competitive and the criticism is probably a lot worse, and it’s probably a lot more demanding—as far as time goes. As a mixed martial artist is, without a doubt, more dangerous but it’s not as demanding of your time. I once read Rich Franklin talk about when he did a movie, he shot a movie, he was like, ‘this ain’t for me,’ because it was like on-set for 14 hours straight, you wait around for hours—just to shoot one 10 second clip and then you shoot that 10 second clip like, 20 times. Actors go through a lot, they really go through a lot—for me, that’s why I was like, ‘screw this, I need to be on stage’.
EK: So you prefer theatre over film-acting?
DT: Yeah, I think so. Film acting obviously is cooler, if you can get those types of gigs it’s cooler, but you know film is just, you rehearse for a couple weeks and then you perform (laughs), it’s two hours a night—you rehearse a couple weeks then you perform. Improv is even easier! You don’t have to rehearse at all (laughs) you know? For me, a person that’s involved in a lot of different things, improv is more ideal.
EK: Do you feel that there are any parallels between your career as a mixed martial arts and acting?
DT: There’s a lot of things, but the focus that it takes to be successful in both—not even just to be successful, when I say successful I mean success in perfecting your craft. As far as perfecting your craft, it takes a tremendous amount of focus. In terms of fighting, when you lose your focus and you take your eyes off of your opponent, he’s going to punch you in the mouth. The same thing goes with acting, you know, you lose your focus for a moment and you’re out of character—the next thing you know, you’re like Kimbo Slice in ‘Circle of Pain’—I’m just playin’ (laughs).
EK: I think I missed that one; I’ll have to check it out. What does it mean for you to be a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt?
DT: Man, I tell you what, now, looking back that’s the one thing that I’m most proud of. When people ask me questions, I’m like, ‘I’m a black belt,’ you know what I’m saying? There are two things in the world that I’m proud of; I’ve got a son and I’ve got a black belt. It’s true, especially where I got it from—Ricardo Liborio, it’s not that far down from the lineage and it’s one of my proudest accomplishments. I think it even stands above my wins. Those wins, I mean at the moment seemed very high but in the grand scheme of things, you know, for instance I fought Jens Pulver back in 2001 and he was the man back then and I won that fight, and it was like, the best feeling ever—I could never recreate the intensity of that feeling when I won.
Looking back, who cares? Nobody cares and that was 10 years ago. A year after that moment, who cares? Nobody cares! No matter what you do in the ring or the cage, a year from that moment nobody cares, nobody remembers. Being a black belt is something that you always have. The influence over the people I have in my gym—people care! You know what I’m saying? What the black belt represents, people care. They don’t care that I fought in Japan or fought in the UFC, they care about what my black belt represents.
EK: When did you first start with the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu?
DT: Well, I first started shoot-fighting back in, like 1995, but I only did shoot-fighting because there were no BJJ schools close to me.The closest BJJ school to me was in Miami, and that was two hours away from me. I actually really considered signing up, even though I was two hours away from it. I drove down there once, and you know, I’m sure he doesn’t even remember it, but we drove down there once and I talked to him, and, man, I looked inside and it was rough—there was blood and sweat and hairy Brazilians running around.
I was like, ‘man, I don’t know if I can drive down here twice a week,’ so I ended up not doing that. I was just training shoot-fighting at a local school that just so happened to be where I lived, so I ended up just going there, but the whole time I was travelling to different seminars—I went to a Rickson Gracie seminar and a Ralph Gracie seminar. You’d be surprised what you’d learn in one of those seminars back then, I mean those guys would really give you the fundamentals correctly. They’d give you all of the fundamentals that you needed so I would just take those fundamentals back to the lab and work on them.
EK: Before you got into the shoot-fighting in 1995, were you involved in any other martial arts?
DT: When I was, like five—that was almost 30 years ago I did karate (laughs). I don’t remember a day of it, but I’ve seen the pictures of myself doin’ karate back then, so I guess I did karate when I was five.
EK: What inspired you to get into shoot-fighting?
DT: Like everybody else, you watch the UFC and, it’s different today—the same things are the same but it’s different today. Back then, you saw the UFC, you saw Royce Grace and you say, ‘man, I want to learn how he does this, I’ve got to see how he’s doing this, I’ve just got to know this stuff—it’s crazy, it’s amazin’. I’ve got to learn it.’
Today its people see you going, ‘I wanna fight!’ it’s the same that, everybody is influenced by the UFC and wants to train for one reason. Back then the reason was, that you wanted to learn it because it was so cool—I want to know how this little guy is beating these big people. Today, they want to learn it because they want to fight! Back then, you just want to know it—today, everybody wants to fight! So it’s a little different, but the influence is the same.
EK: If you could give one piece of advice to aspiring mixed martial artists, what would it be?
DT: To just train because you love it. I’ve had guys come into my school and say to me, this is after just a couple days, they come to me and they say, ‘oh man, I want to train,’ and I’m like, ‘why,’ and they’re like, ‘I want to fight because I need some money.’ They wanted to train so they could fight and make money, I’m like, ‘man if you need money, you’ve got to just a get a job,’ because you ain’t never gonna make no money fightin’—especially if you ain’t no good!
So, if I have one piece of advice, it is to fall in love with the sport first, and train anyway, and if fighting happens to be in your cards, then fighting is in your cards but you should love what you’re doing first. If you’re just training just to fight, you’re always going to get beat by the guys who love what they’re doing.
EK: Have you thought about how much longer you’d like to compete?
DT: Depending on what happens with the things I’ve got going on this year as far as like, my schools and depending on the success of my schools, and I still want to do some film projects. Depending on those things, I want to fight a couple times—maybe once or twice this year, maybe once or twice next year. After that, I can’t really see me getting down for much longer.
EK: You’re undefeated with three wins since dropping down to featherweight. With the UFC adopting a 145 pound division, is the UFC something that you’d be interested in?
DT: Yeah it has. Obviously, the UFC is like the Wal-Mart of mixed martial arts—that’s not a knock, I’m just saying they’re the biggest. Without a doubt, if you want to do it, if you want to fight in the biggest league, that’s where you need to go. For me, I’m not going to chase the UFC. I was with the UFC from 2001 to 2007, so I’m not going to chase them to fight for them.
I mean, I support the UFC 100 percent, but if I come back to fight my goal is not going to be to fight in the UFC—if it happens, it happens, but my goal is not to fight in the UFC, I want to fight because I still have that competition bug in me.
EK: Would you be interested in fighting overseas?
DT: Overseas? Yeah, absolutely. I was actually talking with some promoters from the CFC in Australia, and I’m very interested in fighting for them.
EK: Do you have anything lined up set?
DT: It’s just kind of in the works—they took one of my guys, I went over there a few months ago and I’ve built a relationship with them. I’ve actually been trying to help manage some guys, I’m trying to set up a three package deal.
EK: You’re managing fighters now, too?
DT: Yeah, a little bit—I’m helping guys out.
EK: How disappointed were you when your bout against Ricardo Mayorga fell through?
DT: Yeah, I was a bit disappointed just because a lot of guys we’re interested in seeing that. When I first took that fight, I figured it would be the easiest fight I’ve taken in five years (laughs). I knew it was going to be an easy fight, because one of two things are going to happen; I was going to choke him out real fast or he was going to knock me out real fast. So a fight like that was a fight where I didn’t need to train much for it (laughs).
The weight was 160, which I weighed anyway. I really didn’t need to train much for it—how do you train for a guy that doesn’t know anything on the ground?
EK: Shouldn’t take much too, too much.
DT: Yeah, so I wasn’t really expecting much out of that fight—it was really just a time for me, and I thank Shine for this to keep me alive, keep my name alive. It really was a time for me to shine—no pun intended (laughs).
EK: I guess it’s not really a rematch, but if you had a chance to get in their Mayorga again, would you do it?
DT: For sure, without a doubt.
EK: Mayorga is tentatively scheduled to box Miguel Cotto in March—how do you feel about that?
DT: I think he’ll do pretty well against Miguel Cotto, that’s a good fight. The reason I say this, is because I think he matches okay with Miguel, as long as he trains. Mayorga’s not a dumb guy, even when he was planning on fighting me, he trained for it. He’s a big guy, a strong guy with heavy-hands and he think he matches up well with Miguel in the sense that he’s heavy-handed and Miguel Cotto takes a punch—I mean Miguel Cotto will stand there and get hit and deliver back. I think if Mayorga hits him and cracks him, he can hurt Miguel Cotto.
EK: Are you a boxing fan, Din?
DT: I used to be, not as much anymore.
EK: Why is that?
DT: In the era that I came up, all of the top-guys don’t fight no more. You know, when I was coming up they we’re coming up and I used to use them as mentors and they would influence me and now they don’t fight anymore, or the frequency of them fighting is so low it doesn’t make sense for to even be much of a fan anymore. I really couldn’t tell you any big boxing matches that are coming up. Everybody’s talking about this Super Six tournament, and I don’t even care (laughs).
EK: Do you agree with those who say that boxing is on its way out?
DT: Yeah I do, actually. I do, I really do. It’s because no one cares about it anymore—who really cares about it? People say,’ naw, boxing ain’t going nowhere,’ but anything will go somewhere—I mean it may still be around a little bit. It’s like K-Mart—who would’ve thought K-Mart would go out, but Wal-Mart came out with a bigger, better product, a better strategy on how to reach its market and K-Mart went out of business.
EK: Are you a fan of other sports?
DT: Nah, just combat sports. I respect all athletes—I won’t watch a game of anything but I’ll watch Sports Center to watch highlights of what’s going on, but I won’t watch any games or anything like that.
EK: Are you a kickboxing fan?
DT: I used to, I used to. I’d be a fan of that—I used to like K-1 Max.
EK: Who did you look up to in the beginning stages of your career?
DT: My favourite fighters back then were—I used like Murilo Bustamante a lot. Pele Jose Landi was one of my favourites, “Mach” Sakurai. Even Caol Uno—he beat me twice, but he was always one of my favourites.
EK: Have you thought about how you’d like to be remembered when your fighting days are over?
DT: Frankie Edgar said something recently about, he likes the fans but he doesn’t really care about what they think—as long as he’s respected by his peers and other fighters and I’m kind of along the same lines as that. I don’t care too much to be remembered by the average person, the average fan—I don’t really care too much about that, but as long as people in the game know what time it is, as long as I’m respected by other fighters and people in the game, that’s all I care about. As long as they remember me and know what I’ve done and know how much impact I’ve had on them—that’s all I really care about.
This is kind of a cultural thing, but I’ve had a lot of up-and-comin’ black fighters come up to me and say, ‘man I used to watch you all the time and I appreciate what you’ve done.’ Even some higher-level guys have come up to me, guys that I wouldn’t think even knew me, just like, ‘man we used to watch you all the time and you’re one of the reasons why I got in the game,’—I’ve got to be kind of proud of that.
EK: Do you feel overlooked at all? Do you feel that you get that respect you’re looking for?
DT: I mean, I get a lot of respect in the community of fighters—maybe not so much from the fans or even some, kind of, you know, noobies. What do they call them? TUF noobies, yeah, even some of these noobies. What you did last year is irrelevant to the game, what you did last year is irrelevant. I haven’t fought in a major show in almost three years so of course they’re not going to know me, and I don’t really care. But I tell you what, the people that have been involved in the game for the last 10 years—they know me, what I’ve done, they know what I’m capable of and that’s all that matters.
EK: What do you think that you’ve contributed to the sport?
DT: I think I contribute—I don’t know. I think I contribute a lighter side, you know? Sometimes I used to go to these shows, these amateur shows and you see all these guys come up with a t-shirt on that says, ‘I Killed Your Mother Fight Gear,’ tattoos, and all this and I’m just like, (laughs) ‘man it’s not that serious,’ you know? It’s not that serious. I mean it’s serious, you know? You better be prepared but you’ve got your game-face on four days before the fight, you know what I’m saying? And they can’t fight a lick! I think what I contribute to the game is just a lighter side, just saying, ‘guys take it easy.’ Train hard, fight hard, put on a good show, make your money, and have fun with it. When you ain’t havin’ fun with it, there’s really no reason to be involved.
EK: You’re still having fun?
DT: Yeah, I’m still having a lot of fun (laughs).
EK: Antonio McKee recently made headlines when he insisted that there is an underlying prejudice against African American fighters, what are your thoughts on this?
DT: I don’t know, I may be a bit naive, you know? I’ve never really fallen back on that excuse, to say that there is a lot of racism going around mixed martial arts—I can’t admit to that. I try to take the blame for my problems—if something bad happened to me, I messed up somewhere, not because I was born black. I try to not pay too much attention to what other people are doing. If Antonio McKee didn’t get opportunities with his career, whether it was because he was black or not, I don’t know.
For me, if I’m not given an opportunity I’m not going to say it was because I was black, I’m just going to say that I wasn’t good enough somewhere. I think that talent will overcome, you can’t deny talent.
EK: In your experience, are there a lot of fighters that share McKee’s point of view?
DT: I don’t know, I think some do. It just depends on where they’re from—some might. But Antonio McKee, he’s a great fighter—I’ve passed up opportunities to fight him. I don’t know if he may feel that he hasn’t been given opportunities to fight because he was black, maybe that’s where this is stemming from but it may be because he just wasn’t exciting enough.
He had a crazy, crazy record—he rarely loses, but he’s just not exciting enough and that’s the reason why I didn’t want to fight him, you know, they asked me if I wanted to fight him in Canada and I was like, ‘no I don’t want to fight him,’ because I’m done with fighting guys that are just trying to take me down and just try to hold onto me.
EK: Do you think it’s important to put on a good show?
DT: Yeah, yeah. For sure. You want to have a skill-set that incorporates the ability to win fights and the ability to win fans through fighting excitingly. I’ve been criticized for fighting boring, too. But that was at a time when winning was what you had to do—that was before the time when you were really rewarded for being exciting. Back then, they were just like, ‘gotta win, gotta win, gotta win, gotta win,’ and I was like, ‘I gotta win, throw the jab.’
EK: Do you have a resolution for 2011?
I don’t like to make resolutions—this is the first time I’ve made a resolution.
EK: What is it?
DT: That was to be on time. I’m actually doing pretty good, it’s going pretty good. I haven’t been as effective with my work but I have been on time better. The reason why I’m not on time all the time, is because I try to cram too much into a little bit. When I know I have to be somewhere at six, I’ll try to do 20 different things before six o’clock. I always end up 10 minutes late. Instead of doing that, I said, ‘if I can’t get some stuff done, I’m just not going to get it done but I’m going to be on time.’
EK: Do you intend on slowing down at all in 2011?
DT: I hope not. I like to work a lot. I’m a workaholic—I stay up ‘til two, three in the morning creating things for my schools, creating different programs, creating different curriculums, changing curriculums. Staying up late, waking up early.
EK: Where do you see yourself in five years?
DT: Hopefully in five year my schools will be running themselves and I won’t have to be around as much and I can just be travelling, doing what I want.
EK: What do you think that will be?
DT: Hopefully in another country. I’d like to have a small place in another country where I can just go and relax and just do my work from my phone. Just have mats there and train and then maybe come back, check out my schools.
If I’m still doing what I’m doing now in five years—no way. That’s one thing I don’t like, I don’t like complacency—I’m not trying to be doing what I’m doing now in five years from now, it’s not going to happen.
EK: Is there anything that you’d like to say to your fans while you have this opportunity?
DT: Oh man, fans? I’m not sure I have any fans—do I have any fans out there?
EK: You’ve got lots of fans out there.
DT: You know what’s funny? I’ve got a lot of Canadian fans. I get Canadian hits all the time. Every time someone says, ‘can you send me out an autograph,’ I say, ‘Ah yeah, sure,’ they’re like in Saskatchewan, Alberta—from Alberta, Ontario. I’m like, ‘wow, I’ve got all these Canadian fans.’
To the fans, just keep supporting the game and this is something I’m very adamant about; don’t just support the high-level guys. This is something that I don’t really like, these guys go to the bar and they drop a 100 dollars on drinks and whatever the case may be, but when a local show comes through the area they want to get free tickets, you know what I’m saying?
They just dropped a 100 dollars at the bar, gettin’ drunk, showing off for their friends but they want to get free tickets to a local show—and the local fighters need the money. Dana White don’t need the money like the local fighters do!
What I’m saying is, don’t just support the biggest shows. I mean, yes, they’re the biggest shows—Strikeforce, the UFC, Bodog—or not Bodog, Bellator rather. Bodog is old.
EK: Yeah, they’re out of here.
DT: See how old I am. You’re always going to want to watch them but when local shows come around, support local fighters because local fighters need that support or else they’ll never make it to the big-shows. When a show comes around to your town, go to the show, spend money, don’t try to get in for free, and with the booths set up selling t-shirts—especially if it’s a fighter’s t-shirt, buy that t-shirt because that guy is probably broke. Support your local fighters!