Former ROC champ and Bellator middleweight Tom DeBlass
UFC fighter-turned retired mixed martial artist-turned Bellator middleweight Tom DeBlass is excited to put on a show for a hometown crowd and his new employer.
In November 2012, DeBlass (Twitter: @TomDeBlass) announced his retirement from MMA with intentions of devoting more time to his Ocean County BJJ Academy and family. To fill the void left from not competing in the cage, DeBlass planned to compete in jiu-jitsu tournaments, while also judging MMA in his New Jersey locale.
DeBlass took to Twitter near the end of January to declare his return to MMA, however, not the UFC, but rather Bellator against Carlos Brooks at Ovation Hall at Revel in Atlantic City, N.J. His rise to the UFC was abrupt, which forced DeBlass to reassess his reasons for walking away from mixed martial arts just two months earlier.
“A lot happened really fast for me,” DeBlass told Jason Kelly and Mark Hensch on MMA DieHards Radio on the MMA DieHards Radio Network. “I blew through the ranks of Ring of Combat; the Cyrille (Diabate) fight was short notice and had a big effect on the fight in Sweden. Then in China, I was against Riki Fukuda. It was a great fight, a great war, but I think Riki was just a little too much a little too soon for me. After the fight I walked back in the locker room and told my corner and Mark Henry, ‘I’m done, this is it.’ I’ve been traveling across the world to fight and leaving my family, leaving my school and when I’m not there I feel my school suffers a bit. I was just fed up.”
Not only was it DeBlass’ desire to compete that brought him back to MMA, but encouragement from surrounding people had influence on his decision as well.
When DeBlass retired from the UFC last November, his students, teammates and family supported his decision. When the New Jersey native opted to return to MMA, the same people were encouraging him, yet so was a gentleman that works with the greatest talents in the world and understands who can compete at the top of the game.
“(UFC matchmaker) Joe Silva actually called me personally and said, ‘Maybe you should reconsider retirement, you show a lot of promise, you show a lot of upside and your fight with Riki was great, but more experience for you would not hurt’” DeBlass said.
DeBlass took heed to Silva’s advice and found a place to evolve without resorting to a regional circuit.
The former ROC heavyweight and light heavyweight champion was added to the Bellator 185-pound roster though his old manager Danny Liguori, who worked with DeBlass in his Ring of Combat days. Liguori is well-known to the Bellator family, as he manages many fighters in the promotion, so he was able to assist DeBlass in his wishes to compete for the organization.
“I gave (Liguori) a shout and asked how is the Bellator situation?” DeBlass said. “I know they’re a world-class promotion and they’re in Atlantic City a lot, Atlantic City is my home turf. Right now I don’t want to do the tournament, I want to fight in front of my family, because if I do the tournament I’m not going to be in front of my home crowd. I want to get some more experience, get out there, test the waters and go from there. (Liguori said) ‘Sure man, I’ll work on it.’ And he got me a pretty awesome deal.”
DeBlass didn’t rule out participating in a Bellator tournament, but is now focusing on Brooks. After that he might consider throwing his name in a Bellator middleweight tournament, possibly even a light heavyweight tournament.
As for using Bellator for a stepping stone back to the UFC, DeBlass is staying loyal to the promotion he fights for.
“I’m a Bellator fighter right now,” DeBlass said. “(Bellator VP Talent/Matchmaker) Sam Kaplan is treating me really good. Danny got me a great deal with Bellator. I’m focusing on one fight at a time and I expect Bellator to do some really huge things. They really took an interest in me, they have an event in my backyard and I’m super excited to put on a show for them.”