Veteran MMA coach Din Thomas is striking out on his own after 19 years with American Top Team.
Thomas on Thursday told MMA Fighting he’s leaving the famed team in Coconut Creek, Fla., to train and develop fighters as a head coach. Currently, he guides former UFC welterweight champion Tyron Woodley, whose fight on Saturday against Leon Edwards on was scrapped due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The split was amicable, Thomas said.
“I just feel like it’s time for me to move on,” he said. “I was with them for 19 years. My justification is if Tom Brady can leave the Patriots after 20, I can leave ATT after 19. There’s a lot of fighters I want to work with, and I can’t get to them because of my affiliation. I want to be able to have more freedom to work with people and develop different people without having a structure behind me.”
A former UFC fighter with a 5-4 octagon record, Thomas transitioned to coaching and joined the staff at ATT, where he helped dozens of high-level fighters including Greg Hardy, Gillian Robertson, Antonio Carlos Junior and Krzysztof Jotko. He’s also done work in front of the camera as a series regular on the internet series “Dana White Looking for a Fight,” and served as a guest on “UFC Unfiltered.”
“He was a great teammate and then a great coach,” ATT owner Dan Lambert told MMA Fighting via text. “I’m sure he will be very successful regardless of the path he is choosing.”
Thomas’ move comes at an extremely challenging time for the martial arts and fitness industry, which has ground to a halt as federal and state officials clamp down to stop the spread of the coronavirus. In effort to limit exposure, ATT closed its doors to everyone except for professional fighters and their coaches and doubled its cleaning schedule. Per ESPN.com, another famed MMA gym, American Kickboxing Academy, remains open only two hours a day to accommodate the training of UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov, who’s expected to defend his title on April 18 against Tony Ferguson at UFC 249, which remains without an official location.
On Saturday, ATT implemented a new policy that forbids trash-talking between teammates who aren’t scheduled to fight. Thomas’ departure is unrelated to the move.
“It was a tough decision for me, because I love ATT – it’s always been my family,” Thomas said. “It’s just I’m getting older and I don’t want to do it under that format any more. It’s not bad terms, I just want more freedom to do my own thing.”
Going forward, Thomas said he’s working on an online MMA program and will add clients to his roster.
“If they don’t get better, that’s my fault, and I take responsibility for that,” he said. “If they get better, I did my job correctly. I’m not afraid of that responsibility.”