In an act of selflessness, Tom DeBlass retired from MMA, for now anyway.
In less than three years DeBlass (Twitter @TomDeBlass) acquired two Ring of Combat belts (heavyweight and light heavyweight) and compiled 7-0 MMA record before making it to the UFC and suffering his first career setback.
Making his UFC debut on just more than a week’s notice in Sweden, the New Jersey native lost a majority decision to Cyrille Diabaté at “UFC on Fuel TV 2: Gustafsson vs. Silva.” He followed the performance up with a hard-fought decision loss in his middleweight debut against Riki Fukuda, a combatant DeBlass thinks highly of, at “UFC on Fuel TV 6: Franklin vs. Le.”
Neither defeat is anything to be ashamed of, and at 30-years-old, DeBlass is only getting better. Though, he is improving daily and could definitely have a successful mixed martial arts career if he stayed in the sport, the former ROC light heavyweight champ decided to take the altruistic route.
“It’s tough,” DeBlass told MMADiehards.com. “It’s tough to walk away from MMA because I know I have so much to give, but at the same time I have to look at the big picture. It’s not all about me and I have to realize what’s important.
“I don’t want to be one of these guys four or five years from now chasing a dream. I don’t want to look back and my daughter is 6-years-old, I lost students in my academy because I wasn’t there for them, I have students that could be champions but aren’t because I didn’t pass on my experiences. I have the opportunity to do that now, so why not do that?”
DeBlass said his original plan never had intentions of becoming a professional mixed martial artist. Six months prior to his MMA debut, the Ocean County BJJ instructor was content doing battle in the ADCC’s.
DeBlass’ desire to compete is what drove him to test his mettle in MMA and he said he loves the sport, however, following the loss to Fukuda isn’t the first time he pondered retirement.
“I was thinking about retiring before this fight,” DeBlass admitted. “I saw the affect it had on people around me.”
DeBlass said, likewise to friends and family suggesting he should continue competing, there were an equal amount encouraging his choice to retire. But, no matter what their opinion, they all supported his decision and understood his reasons.
Now out of the cage, DeBlass has stepped away from competing in mixed martial arts, but not entirely separated from the sport.
“I talked to Nick Lembo (Counsel to the New Jersey State Athletic Control Board) and I’m going to be the second UFC fighter to ever judge an event,” DeBlass explained. “That’s behind my teacher Ricardo (Almeida). I’m getting into judging, I’m going to judge an event, I’m going to be competing in jiu-jitsu. I’m still around.
“I’m jumping right back into grappling competitions. I’m jumping right into Abu Dhabi trials (next spring). Dean Lister just won the Abu Dhabi at 36-years-old, I’m only 30. I’ll compete in the black belt No-Gi competition. I’ll still be there with my teammates. I’ll be there next week helping my teammates prepare. I’m not going to stop training, I’ll be cornering my teammates, I’m staying in shape. You know, nothing has changed there.”
DeBlass said he is thankful to have experienced what MMA has had to offer, as he is grateful for his support staff through all his life decisions. His soon-to-be wife Delilah, mom, dad, coaches Almeida, Mark Henry and Matt Pletcher, as well as the students in OCBJJ have supported him as he exits the sport.
And they’ll be the same people rallying behind him if he returns.
“Sure, the talent is there if I decide to come back, but MMA is so fickle no one knows what can happen,” DeBlass said. “I made my decision and am doing what’s best for me now and I can’t regret that. Down the road who knows what will happen. I’m crazy, man. Don’t be surprised if you do see Tom DeBlass fighting again.”