Interview with Thomas Denny
ML: How’s the training going for the fight?
TD: I’m ready! I wish it was this weekend. I’m tired of being so skinny.
ML: Is it stressful when it gets close like this, waiting for the fight? Any anxiety or anything like that?
TD: I get exited. I don’t get anxiety, I get exited. Which kind of has the same characteristics of being nervous. I mean that same butterflies in the stomach, the jitterness, just the excitement. You know, just having so much experience, and having so many fights, I don’t get nervous. I mean I get nervous, but it’s not a nervous of me losing, it’s a nervous of me not performing up to my ability. You know what I mean?
We had one of our guys, Seth Dikin fight Andrew Antuna last Thursday at the Tachi Palace in Lemoore. You know just being there, and being in that atmosphere, you know right there tellin’ him you can kick this dudes ass. He’s supposed to be 4-0, somethin’ special, like the next big thing since Urijah Faber, and he just tooled him. So it’s just exiting you know what I mean? Me and Bryan (Baker) were cornering him (Seth) and were like fuck, we’re fighting in 2 weeks! Let’s get this goin’!
ML: It’s one thing to be in the gym, but it’s another to be in that atmosphere. It just kind of kicks in doesn’t it?
TD: Yeah, it just kicks it in and makes you ready to go.
ML: How much time do you spend a day training?
TD: Monday and Fridays I get in about 5 hours of actual hard training. Tuesdays and Thursdays, about an hour and a half. Wednesdays is just more technique, not real hard, it’s real light, I get about an hour, and Saturdays I get about an hour and a half.
ML: Is it tough getting in all that training while running the school and everything else you do?
TD: It would be if I didn’t have the team I do. Our team is awesome, you know. Whether it’s me having a fight or one of them having a fight, there’s always one of us having a fight, so we’re always in fight mode, we’re always in training mode. We’re always pushing each other.
As far as running the gym itself, the hard time is walking off the matt, sweatin’, drenched, teaching a private, then, having to teach a class. That gets kind of hard. If you’re training for a fight or not at all. Because all my guys are already training, we’re all on a set schedule, what time we train, so it’s the same every time.
ML: What do you… you know you’ve got your hand in so many different places in the game, as far as running the gym, being a fighter, and helping other fighters. What do you enjoy most about it?
TD: Watching the guys that come in here who basically had really no shot in life per say, or like a person that’s coming in like with no goals at all, nothin’, and just kind of being looked at as a loser. And to see them within a year or two years, turn it around, and watch their self esteem grow, watch just the way they carry themselves grow, is probably the most exiting thing for me. Just to watch these guys grow as people and as humans.
ML: How much bigger do you think this sport can get? It’s just grown so much in the last two or three years, how much further can it go?
TD: As far as how much bigger can it be, it can be huge. As far as when the unifications all start, you know when you look at the boxing element and you have the WBO and the WBA, and you see guys go win all four titles or you see guys compete in all the organizations. I mean we’re still kind of at a position where it’s like the UFC is trying to monopolize, and be like we want to own everything. No man, don’t own everything. Let’s have big, huge entities, let’s be able to turn on our tv at anytime, and see some kind of mixed martial arts. Rather that it be a pay-per-view every week, let’s see what’s on channel 13 four or five nights out of the week. Then it’s going to be ridiculously huge!
ML: How many guys do you have fighting on this card at the Collision Course show?
TD: Actually we started off with four, and now we’re down to two. Just me and Bryan Baker. Originally we had Seth (Dikin) trying to get on there, Gunnar (Hinson) our little 15 year old protégé was on there, but he had to pull off.
ML: What got you into fighting? How old were you when you first started fighting?
TD: What very first got me into fighting, I grew up in a real, real bad childhood, real bad family, real bad family structure, drugs, alcohol kind of thing. And you can only stay at school for so long, you know schools over than you have to go home. So I started going over to the Chino Youth Center as a kid, about 10 years old, and just watching the boxing. Then it turned out I started hoping in and just getting my ass kicked, because you know, they don’t want some little kid coming in and doing well, so you know I just got my ass kicked and started boxing. It was a way of keeping me away from home, where I could stay there until eight or nine o’clock at night, then go home and try to sneak into my bed and go to sleep. Next day, same thing, go back to school and back to the boxing gym. So that’s what first got me started in fighting and into competition.
Then I started working for a while, turned about 19, and then I started kickboxing. Started kickboxing around and was enjoying that, and was having some manager problems, and just some ridiculous stuff happening. So I went to work and gave all that up, met my wife, started having a family, working 60 – 70 hours a week, just not being happy. At that time the UFC just started getting big and the problem was there was no weight classes. So I never even thought twice. I liked watching it, but other than that, I just, you know I don’t want to fight somebody that big. So then they started the two weight classes where it was under 200 lbs and over 200 lbs, and I was like man, ok, now we’re starting to get somewhere. So, I actually quit my job and just started training full time for about 6 weeks and went to my first fight, and never looked back.
I expired my money, my money went down, but my happiness went up. You know I basically had enough money to hold me off for about a year, and give it my heart and my soul and see what happens, and here we are, eight years later.
ML: You were just talking about having manager problems at one time, how important is it for a fighter to have a manager?
TD: It’s huge, because you could get mislead. I’ve seen so many kids get their ears talked off about what someone can do for them, what someone can’t do for them, you know, we’re going to do this for you, that for you. Next thing you know, they’ve been around the game for two years and they still haven’t gone anywhere. So it’s pretty important, but it’s also important who your manager is.
ML: What kind of advise would you give someone that’s just starting out?
TD: Don’t rush! Take your time and learn the sport, learn the aspects of the game. Don’t just jump into it for money, don’t just jump into it for fame. If you’re a true fighter, it’s gonna take time to learn. Learn what you need to, don’t just go in there and get yourself hurt. Don’t get thrown to the wolves, just take your time, and when the time is right, hop in and have some fun!
ML: Is there anything you’d like to see taken from the game or added to it?
TD: The State of California has this problem with smokers or amateur fighting. These kids, if you go to Japan, you know you go to Brazil, they have B, and C, and D classes. Where it’s all the way from a kid that’s first starting, putting on shin pads, knee pads, elbow pads, head gear, and your gloves, you know what I mean. You’re able to see what happens your first time out. You don’t have to go jump in front of 2000 people, in a professional fight your first time out. It’s just too much added pressure. We need to have a C class, and then a B class, and then your AA pro class. I’d love to see that implemented, I’d love to see these guys get to have 10 to 15 fights. I mean look at amateur boxers, I mean you see amateur boxers that have 200 fights under their belt before they turn pro.
So I mean you’re just going to jump right into pro, I mean I’ve seen a lot of careers just fold. Guys go out there and lose a couple of times and just like, ah man, this ain’t for me. They probably took the wrong fights and didn’t have any amateur fights, no amateur experience.
ML: What about moves? I’ve heard so many people say they want to see knees to the head on the ground brought back?
TD: Nah, that really doesn’t bother me. If you’re a sportsman, and you’re a fighter, and you call yourself a mixed martial artist, you should be able to adapt to whatever the rules are. Before it used to piss me off, back when I first started. If you look at the safety of the fighters, I mean you can look at elbows, you know what I mean? Anybody can throw an elbow. You could be winning fight for fourteen minutes and thirty seconds and you get caught with a stupid elbow, you get cut, they stop the fight and you lose. You could see them taking out elbows. Let’s take out elbows and add knees on the ground. You know, I mean, maybe add soccer kicks, you know. But if I was to change anything, I’d probably change elbows. You know, take the elbows out and add the knees on the ground.
ML: When you take a fight, and you find out who your opponent is, do you change your training at all? Do you train for his strengths or his weaknesses?
TD: Nope. The game has changed so much, and if you’re smart, and you’re a smart fighter, and especially if your last fight is accessible, say via internet or youtube or whatever, you get a guy that sits there and studies your fight, ok, well he knows exactly what to do. If you’re smart, you’re going to go out there and fight the exact opposite of what your plan was prior to that. I don’t know how many guys I’ve heard, you know, they’re going to stand with me, and as soon as they come out, I hit them one time, and they try to take me down. So it’s like, you know, I always train to stand up. I always want to stand up and let the hands fly and my legs fly.
The one time that I actually trained really for a guy as a strategy and watched it and everything, the guy came out and fought the exact opposite. So, it’s kind of more a feel out process.
ML: Just stick with what you know, with what you do?
TD: For sure. The second Fanshier fight, I wanted to fight him the same way I fought him the first time, so that he would think that’s how the fight was going to go, when really, all I planned on was as soon as he threw that lazy kick with his hands down, I was going to come in with an overhand right, and just blast him. And that’s what I was looking for the whole time. The first round I just smothered him, put him in the cage and took him down at will, let him up, took him down, let him back up, let him try to get me in a guillotine again. And basically it was like playing the first fight…. I mean if you watch the first fight and the second fight, it’s like identical first rounds. So then start of the second round, you know, same thing, I knew he was going to come out and throw that lazy leg kick, and I knew I was going to blast him. If you watch, you kind of see me smirk as he throws the leg kick and so I smirked because I knew it was going to come again and I knew right when he was going to do it. And you see him throw that lazy kick with his hand down and I blasted him with that right hand and knocked him into next Tuesday. So I followed it up with some punches, mounted him and finished it.
It’s kind of funny ‘cause he was like, oh, they stopped it too soon. If anyone wanted them to not stop that fight, it would have been me. The position I was in, he was lucky they stopped it when they did. Because I was just getting ready to start unleashing elbows, and it would have just been bad. But yeah, I was stoked you know, he got up and I was trying to be cool, and I go, you know what, they stopped it at a pretty good time, and he was all I wasn’t out…. Yeah you were, you were straight out, arms straight out, couldn’t even move. But I guess if anybody wanted that fight to continue it was me.
ML: Walk me through fight day for you. From when you get up in the morning, do you have a routine?
TD: It all depends on where fight it is, if it’s out of town, or if I’m in town. A typical King Of The Cage Soboba fight, I’ll go down and do my weigh in, come back up and hop in bed with my beautiful wife, sleep with her and get a good night of sleep. I wake up, try to eat some breakfast, go back down and maybe watch a movie with my kids, enjoy them and just relax until about 3:00, start getting up and showering up, shavin’, getting all ready, you know. Gotta look good for the fight, you know, put on my perfume and stuff, smellin’ good. Head down, check in, relax, try to find a nice spot to hang out somewhere in there, watch a few fights, warm up and let’s go. Let’s have some fun!
ML: What happens 10 minutes before the fight? Do you have to put yourself in a different place to get ready for the fight, or are you already there?
TD: You know what, everything that entails the fight itself, happens the six to eight weeks before the fight. Ten minutes prior I’ll visualize what I want to do and what I see. I’ll go through a lot of emotions, as far as just, you know, settling myself down because sometimes I get a little over anxious. I just want to get in there, I’m ready, you know. I just try to relax, visualize, lots of visualization. 10 minutes prior I’m hittin’ some pads, I’m relaxin’, I’m shadowboxing, just trying to keep my sweat going, and then I’m ready to just go in and go to work.
ML: What do the fans have to do with your fight? Do they have any effect on it?
TD: It’s funny, it had been close to a year and a half since I fought at Soboba, before this last one. I had forgot man, you know it’s like magic, all electricity. I swear, when I’m standing on top of that platform, and they say my name, and I see all these people stand up, and start cheering my name and stuff, it’s bizarre man.
ML: You bring a lot of people to the show, a lot of fans.
TD: For sure!
ML: You also have a lot haters.
TD: For Sure, I have a little bit of both. But you know, it’s kind of funny, because I can’t think of one time that a boo would be overshadowed by a yeah, you know what I mean. You can boo all you want, but you’ve got four or five thousand other people sitting around screamin’ yeah, you know what I mean., so it’s all good, it’s like magic. Like I said, electricity.
ML: How much time do you spend on the internet reading forums and stuff like that?
TD: Hardly any.
ML: Hardly any?
TD: Yeah, I try to stay away from them. Cause I’m an emotional guy, and it just gets me upset. Like I have people call me and go, hey go look at this, you know. A typical day, I won’t get on at all. I’ll hop on myspace and you know, keep people informed. I use myspace to watch my kids that I train and make sure they’re not getting into any trouble and stuff. As far as forums themselves, I stay off of them. I’d rather just train and keep going, you know.
ML: Well the training keeps you busy all day anyway.
TD: For sure, for sure.
ML: I’ve seen a lot of people talk a lot of smack about you on the internet and you used to reply every so often, but I don’t see you reply anymore.
TD: Yeah, it’s been so long since I have. You know I just laugh. The thing is, I was just up at this Tachi Palace thing, and Anderson Silva, Nogueira, Paulo Filho, those guys were all up there, and those guys went out of their way to come over and talk to me. And I mean Anderson actually exchanged some techniques on a couple of things that we were working as I was warming up my guy. I mean I’ve got these guys that are like the number one guys in the world that respect me. So this little, snotty nose, 15 year old kid on the internet is gonna bother me? Nah, man. And even half these fighters, these local fighters that want to talk shit, you know, they’re always they’ll fight me, I’m this, I’m that. But I go to these places and I have Nogueira sitting around watching me show how I put on a triangle, you know, yeah, I suck, terrible.
ML: That’s cool!
TD: Yeah, that’s awesome!
ML: I know when I post this, someone is going to ask, what color is his hair going to be?
TD: Ha Ha. Nice.
ML: How far in advance do you plan something like that?
TD: Usually the day before. This one is actually, the one I’m doing has been planned, my wife did this one. Usually we all come up with little ideas to do, but my wife planned this one. And just like I tell everybody when they ask how I’m going to do my hair, just buy a ticket and come find out.
ML: What do you do in your spare time away from MMA?
TD: Good question. I like to play golf when I can. I like to spend time with my kids and my wife, we always go camping, so we try to take off somewhere. Riding dirtbikes, or going down to the beach, surfin’ or bodysurfin’. Like I said, just try to stay away from the gym altogether. Just be away from it as much as I can. Put it out of my mind. because you know 6 days a week, I’m here. So it’s not often I get to get away. But if I get to take a week off, just anything that has nothing to do with training. Nothing that has to do with eating good or training. Just being away, just secluding myself from my job.
ML: Is there anyone that you want to thank, sponsors, or anything you want to say?
TD: Toe2toe.tv, those guys have always been really good to me. Bad Seed, Ultra Hauler Trailers down in Riverside, they’ve been good to me and taking care of me lately . My team, my fans, My wife and my kids, and then you and Terry and all of the King Of The Cage organization, man. It’s all been good, it’s been a good ride lately!
I’d like to thank Thomas and John for taking some time out of their busy days to give me some interviews. You can both of them in their exiting fight at the Soboba Casino on Sunday, August 5th at 6:00 PM. See you there!