When Din Thomas made his professional MMA debut in October 1998, Bill Clinton was president of the United States, Google had only existed for about a month, and Ronda Rousey and Jon Jones were both eleven years old. Over the course of his 15-year career, Thomas waged war with the biggest lightweight names of his era — including BJ Penn, Jens Pulver, Matt Serra, and Caol Uno — and re-launched himself into the MMA spotlight in 2006 with an appearance on TUF 4 and a subsequent string of wins over Rich Clementi, Clay Guida, and Jeremy Stephens.
After leaving the UFC in 2008, Thomas reinvented himself as a featherweight, winning his next three fights by stoppage. But in recent years, Thomas’s career momentum has ground to a halt. There was his canceled freak-show against Ricardo Mayorga in May 2010, followed by a car accident on the way to a scheduled match in October 2011. There was a suspension and no-contest after his win over Cody Bollinger in May 2012, and a decision loss to Georgi Karakhanyan at LFC 19 last April. But watching some of his old-school peers go down at UFC 168 was the last straw, and Din Thomas announced his retirement yesterday via the following press release:
UFC 168, Weidman vs Silva, could have driven the last nail in the coffin of any idea that anybody from my era could still be champion. Anderson Silva failed to re-claim his title after suffering the 2 [worst] losses of his career to the undefeated, Chris Weidman. Whether Silva manages to ever return to the Octagon or not, this fight was career ending. Josh Barnett, our last heavyweight hopeful was unsuccessful at moving closer to owning the UFC heavyweight title that he once owned. His plans were foiled by Travis Browne. This trend is not necessarily a testament of the evolution of the new UFC athlete, but provides further evidence that my colleagues from the Golden Age of MMA are now of the “Olden Age” of MMA.
Despite the sorrow that this harsh reality brings to me, any relevant fighter from the 90s, or the old-school, genuine fans that supported us, it certainly brings comfort to my decision to officially retire over this monumental weekend. I suppose, misery does love company.
Yet instead of pondering over “what ifs”, “should’ves”, and “could’ves”, I appreciate and celebrate my time spent, devotion given, and influence I had on MMA. Fighting BJ Penn at the Meadowlands at UFC 32 in the UFC’s first show on Pay Per View since it had been banned for years, was an immeasurable experience. Being a part of the first ever sanctioned UFC fight in Las Vegas history against Fabiano Iha at UFC 33 is something that only Mr. Iha and I can claim (Dana White later joked to me that UFC 33 was the event that made him want to kill himself). Being invited to participate on The Ultimate Fighter season 4: The Comeback was life changing and I met some of the greatest guys I’ve ever known. My list goes on…
Reminiscing over a professional MMA career that has spanned close to 15 years, I acknowledge that none of it could have been as meaningful or possible without Dan Lambert, Dana White, the Fertitta Brothers, Joe Silva, Burt Watson, and the UFC. Their work, dedication, and vision has impacted and shaped the evolution of MMA on every level worldwide.
As I move forward and pursue other avenues of life, I will continue to support the UFC and their new, evolved athletes like Tyron Woodley and Dustin Poirier, and of course, perhaps our last great promising title contender from the Golden Age, Robbie Lawler. [Ed. note: I guess Vitor Belfort is chopped liver?]
Now 37 years old, Thomas leaves the sport with a career record of 26-9 and one no-contest. The longtime American Top Team member runs an ATT affiliate based in Port St. Lucie, Florida, so stop by if you’re in the area. The rest of you can just show Din some love on twitter.