Din Thomas goes in-depth on his departure from American Top Team

Din Thomas
Image via @dinthomas on Instagram

Din Thomas has been a coaching staple at American Top Team and has gotten most of his notoriety through his work with former welterweight champion Tyron Woodley. Thomas and Woodley have worked together for years and climbed up to championship heights back in 2016. They’ve stuck with each other throughout their journey.

Thomas has worked with other fighters during his time at American Top Team but last week it was reported that he was parting ways with the team.

In an interview with the On The Mic podcast, Thomas went in-depth as to why he felt now was the time to leave ATT and what’s next for his future.

Looking back at his 2019, which he described as “rough”, Din Thomas said he needed to make many changes in his life and that included his professional coaching life as well.

“I had kind of a rough year in 2019 and ultimately I was just thinking I needed a change in my life, everywhere,” Thomas said. “I needed to redo everything and start over in a lot of areas and professionally, I just kind of need to reset and start over, and just wanted to do something different. American Top Team has been my home for a long time and I put up a quote the other day that said you can’t get new things by doing old ways, and that’s just the way I feel. If I’m doing the same thing every year, I can’t really expect to come up the way I want to come up.”

Having consistency provided some comfort in a sport where it’s hard to find stability at any level, but in order to get to where he wants to be, Thomas felt the move was necessary.

“It’s comfortable, no doubt about it,” he said. “Getting a reliable paycheck every week doing mixed martial arts is like unheard of, and I’m doing that, that’s what I’m getting and I’m passing it all up in a time where jobs are uncertain. But it’s something I feel in my heart that I have to do to just move on, and maybe give myself an opportunity to do something bigger, or at least for me that I can put my name on it, but ultimately that’s what got it started. The timing of it, I was in camp with Tyron [Woodley] and I just said it was time, I said I’m not going back there.”

As for the conversation that was had about his departure, Thomas said there wasn’t much of a conversation, he just informed the team of his decision and went on his way.

“I kind of just sent them an e-mail because I had been gone for so long and I don’t know how big of a deal it is to them and I didn’t want to make it a big deal for me,” he said. “For me, it was a harder deliberation to come to the conclusion that I wanted to leave more than telling them I was going to leave. Once I made the decision, it’s not really up to you guys anymore, so it was like hey, I haven’t been there in a couple weeks, I’m not coming back. It was harder for me to make the decision than to tell them.”

Making such a massive change in his coaching career also comes with uncertainty in the immediate future, but Din Thomas has a clear vision as to what he wants to do next in his career.

“Like I said this totally wasn’t all planned out and I probably should’ve but I did not do that,” Thomas said. “But sometimes in order to build a house, you got to clear the land out first and that’s what I did. I cleared the land. I do know that I want to continue working with fighters but I don’t want to have a big group of guys and these big practices. If I can really invest in and dedicate as much effort and energy into individual fighters that I can, I feel I can get better results.”

Looking back at what he describes as a terrible year in 2019, Thomas says part of that was due to the fact that he couldn’t invest the time with his fighters.

“Like I said, 2019 I had a terrible year coaching but the thing is I didn’t really feel like I got a chance to invest in anyone the way I wanted to,” he said. “Like the losses I had, I didn’t have s**t to do with them, but I had to eat it. From now on, if I’m going to take a loss, let me take a loss, I don’t want to work with a guy for a week then go into a fight and be responsible for making him win cause I told him some magic in the corner. That’s not where fights are won, fights are won in practice. So I want to be able to develop, build, and have a little bit more control.”

A coach like Din Thomas doesn’t become a “free agent” often in MMA and when he did, his phone was certainly blowing up. Moving forward, it will all have to make sense for who he decides to work with.

“I had people from Top Team hitting me up saying ‘dude we gonna work this out, we need to make this work’ and I was like alright, we can try. But I’ve had people from different gyms asking me ‘where you going now? Let’s connect.’ I don’t think I’m at a shortage of people to work with, I just got to set my standards right. Obviously the reason for me doing this is because I don’t want to work for everybody, like if I wanted to work with everybody I’d stay at Top Team and tell everyone to join there. But I don’t want to work with everybody, I kind of want to work with either those I feel like are going to be something great in the future or they’re already at that level.”

Embarking on a new coaching journey won’t come as a simple task for Din Thomas, but he’s betting on himself. He believes that he’ll find the right fighters to work with, and that leaving American Top Team will catapult him to where he wants to be for himself.

This article first appeared on BJPENN.com on 3/26/2020.