UFC pioneer Din Thomas wants major changes to ‘outdated’ MMA pay structure, rules

Check out our exclusive interview with UFC pioneer Din Thomas!

By: Eddie Mercado | 4 weeks ago
UFC pioneer Din Thomas wants major changes to ‘outdated’ MMA pay structure, rules
UFC pioneer Din Thomas catches up with Bloody Elbow for an interview | IMAGO/ZUMA Wire/Richard Graulich/The Palm Beach Post

Long before the UFC ever hit the mainstream vein, MMA pioneer Din Thomas was scrapping with the likes of Caol Uno and Jens Pulver, before ultimately making his UFC debut against BJ Penn in 2001. Over the course of his career, Din Thomas picked up quality wins over names like Jeremy Stephens, Clay Guida, and Matt Serra — plus he even submitted fellow pioneer Mikey Burnett on TUF Season 4 in 2006. Since then, Din Thomas has been spotted at the analyst desk for UFC events, representing longtime combat sports brand Revgear, as well as engaging in a handful of other fight related endeavors.

Bloody Elbow had the pleasure of catching up with the retired UFC veteran Din Thomas to cover a variety of topics.

In the interview, we discuss how Din Thomas landed his UFC desk deal, his longstanding relationship with Revgear, and the glory days of sponsorships compared to the current Venum situation. We also touch on that crazy scorecard mixup in Din Thomas’ UFC 41 fight with now ex-UFC welterweight champ Matt Serra, and how he almost lost out on his win bonus.

Before it’s all said and done, Din Thomas lists off the things that he would change about the sport, and part of that includes the ‘outdated’ pay structure.

Din Thomas interview video

Din Thomas speaks with Bloody Elbow’s own Eddie Mercado

Din Thomas discusses UFC then vs. now

  • When you look at the UFC nowadays, what would you say is the most glaring difference from when you competed?

“For me, it’s still the same sport, right? Like when I got involved, I got involved in 1995 and it was all about learning how to defend yourself, how to fight, and just like competition. Testing yourself against another human being, so like at the end of the day, my core soul still believes in that. But the sport has outgrown that, or I don’t even want to say outgrown, I want to say taken another path. So the priority of the sport has taken a completely different path, but for me, it’s still what it always was.”

“But when I look at that path that the UFC has taken, and MMA has taken, I’m impressed, I’m proud, sometimes I’m disgusted. But at the end of the day, it’s provided me a living, and a career, and a lifestyle, and I would have it no other way. I can’t do anything else. Since I was 18 years old, I’ve dedicated my life to the sport of what we know now as MMA, and I can’t do anything else. I’m just so thankful that there are opportunities for me to still be in it.”

Din Thomas’ UFC desk deal

  • Yeah, I mean, the UFC frequently brings you in as an on air talent. How did that even come to be? Did you approach them, or did they hit you up?

“It’s crazy because like my life is really like pieces to a puzzle. Like I had been working on different things, and when I needed a certain skill set, I kind of already had it because I have been working on things along the way. And that’s being in front of a camera, interviewing, and talking, and speaking. So I had all those things kind of in my back pocket, and that’s kind of what got me the job on Looking for a Fight, and that’s how it all started.”

“Dana called me and I was on the show, and that just opened up so many doors for me. Just another world of opportunities. Just by taking that advantage of that one opportunity, and being prepared. Took advantage of that, and then we were in Abu Dhabi and I was riding bikes with the Vice President of production. And I didn’t know he was the Vice President of production. We just chopped it up every day, riding bikes, talking about fights, and he was like, man, you would be great on the desk. You ever thought about that?”

“Next thing I know, I’m on the desk. Next thing I know, I get a contract. The next thing I know, I got my own show on ESPN after TUF, you know? So it’s just one thing leads to another just by taking advantage of that opportunity that you never really knew was going to be the big one.”

Din Thomas on the glory days of UFC sponsorships

  • You were around in the good ol’ sponsorship days, where they had the Tapout shorts with like a gazillion logos on it. I call it the glory days.

“It was, haha.”

  • But nowadays, they’ve got the Venom deal. Do you know what percentage fighters get through the Venum deal, versus what you were getting when you were fighting?

“Well, it’s an unfair comparison really because when we were getting what we were getting, the market was skewed. That was a time where the sport was starting to blow up, and nobody really knew what it was. There was no blueprint, so no one really knew what MMA fighters made, and they thought that we made a lot of money. So all these startup companies were investing a lot into MMA, and they were giving guys a lot of money.”

“I remember making almost 70 grand for one fight. I mean, we were making a lot of money in sponsors because you could go to different companies and be like, ‘yeah, MMA. It’s on pay-per-view, and so you gotta give my guy $10,000 for this little patch on the shorts.’ And companies were like, ‘alright, I’ll do it.’ And that’s why everyone was making a lot of money.”

“After that, it kind of balanced out to where people realize that, ‘wait a minute, there’s no return of our investment.’ And then a lot of MMA fighters were getting over because these companies weren’t paying them, or they were going out of business because they weren’t legit, or substantial enough to really pay that money. So, when we talk about the glory days of the sponsorships, for a couple of years it was AMAZING. But then after that, when it balanced out, when they realized that, ‘alright, what are we doing?’ then it wasn’t that amazing.”

“That’s why I’m not completely upset with the Venum deal. Like I wish they could make more. But at least I know this. At least I know that that check clears.”

  • I guess you do have a point with that, but it just seems like when fighters had independent sponsors…

“The potential to make more. Yeah. So when you talk about some of the higher profile fighters. Yeah, they’re screwed from that because like if you’re a higher profile fighter, and you could have made a lot of money with that sponsorship, you know, you could have really cleaned up. I mean it’s a little bit more lenient than it was.” 

OG Revgear brand

  • Speaking of sponsors, one of your OG sponsors is Revgear. My very first pair of shin guards and Muay Thai gloves I ever owned, was Revgear. Like that’s how long they’ve been around, and they’re still here. What do you think is the key to being a consistent brand in combat sports?

“If you’re still around in this game after a while, kudos props, hats off to you because you’re doing it right. You’re doing something right. And again on something that I alluded to earlier, was that you’re taking care of people the right way. And I think that’s the one thing that Rev Gear has always done, especially for me, is they’ve always taken care of me. Like if I ever needed anything, they always took care of me. They always answer my calls. They’re always there for me, and they really do good business, and they have a good product.”

  • Do they make a gi? I’m in the market for a new gi.

“They do make gi’s. I’ve never tried their gi’s, but I got a gang of their T-shirts, and their equipment is always good. Man, I use their equipment a lot. In fact, the focus mitts, the pads, the boxing gloves. I use all their stuff all the time, and they sent me the the little sticks to help my wrist.”

Bloody Elbow merch now available

Bloody Elbow is pleased to announce our partnership with Revgear. They have been a pioneer in the MMA gear industry and have grown into a formidable brand and true leader in the market. Revgear now have Bloody Elbow t-shirts, hoodies and hats so you can show your support for independent MMA journalism.

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Din Thomas, Dana White and Matt Serra on a UFC episode.

Wild scorecard debacle on Din Thomas vs. Matt Serra at UFC 41

  • I was talking to Matt Serra the other day, and he had the nicest things to say about you, by the way, but when you’re ever just hanging out, do you ever rub that split decision in his face?

“Do I ever. I got it tattooed on my body. On my arm it says, ‘hey, Matt, I won.’”

  • What a weird moment that was. For anyone that doesn’t know, they read the wrong winner.

“They read the wrong winner. Everybody talked about judging today, man, but that was probably the first biggest mistake in the judges’ careers. Where one of the judges scored it wrong. He scored Matt scores where my name was, and vice versa. And they read it wrong and said Matt was the winner, and I was like, we was tripping. We was like, wait.”

“Yeah. Then he came back 10 minutes later to the back. Dana White comes back 10 minutes later into the dressing room and is like, ‘you won that fight,’ and I was like, yeah, man, I thought I won too. He said, ‘No, no, you really won. They scored it wrong. They messed up the score and you really won the fight.’ I was like, ‘Yayyyyy! Gimme’ my money.’”

  • That’s a win bonus. That’s kind of a big deal.

“It is a big deal. Especially back then, because we weren’t really making a lot of money. I mean, people think that the win bonuses are something now, man, but back then it really mattered because, I mean, that was that was a big chunk of my produce.”

Din Thomas wants ‘outdated’ MMA pay structure, judging changed

  • If you could change one rule in MMA what would it be?

“If I had to change something, I would get rid of the 10 point must system.”

  • Ooooh! What would you replace it with? Maybe more of like the Japanese judging the whole fight?

“Probably I would do it that way. I mean to make that answer, a simple answer, very complicated I would change the entire structure of how we select the winner of a fight. Because I think that sucks. You know, I think the way we select the winner sucks, and it goes hand in hand with the pay structure, that I think it’s outdated in terms of win bonus. I think fighters should just get paid to fight, and you should get bonus to finish, not win, but to finish.”

“So I think I think those are some things that I would change. I would probably have more judges. Like 7 judges and a system where they were judging it that really told more of the story of the entire fight, as opposed to round by round. So some things like that, I mean it would be very complicated.”

  • So a total overhaul of the scoring system and judging?

“Total overhaul of the scoring system, and then after that, I would allow knees to the head on the ground.”

You can also listen to the interview with Din Thomas below.

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About the author
Eddie Mercado
Eddie Mercado

Eddie Mercado is a writer and content creator for Bloody Elbow, and has covered combat sports since 2015. Eddie covers everything from betting odds and live events, to fighter interviews and co-hosting the 6th Round post-fight show and the 6th Round Retro. He retired at 1-0 in professional MMA, competed in one Muay Thai match in Thailand, and is currently a purple belt in Jiu-Jitsu under the great Diego Bispo.

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