20 year old Thomas Denham is a light heavyweight fighter, fighting out of Hardlife MMA. He has a record of 4-2 and is fresh off of a 57 second win over David Wilson just weeks ago. He comes from a wrestling background, where he was the highest ranked Freestyle wrestler in England for his age and division for 7 years straight. Denham swapped wrestling for MMA just over a year ago and after a few losses to start with, has never looked back now on a 4 win streak.
He is taking on Mike Neun at BAMMA 11 on December 1st in Birmingham, and we managed to catch up with him in a very in depth chat about his career, his community work and his love for Tom “Kong” Watsons ‘sayings’;
Early in your career you lost twice, both against well known fighters on the UK scene, do you think it was a mistake fighting them so early in your career and would you ever want the rematches to get ‘revenge’ so to speak?
“Early in my career I lost to 2 top UK guys; Anth Taylor and Rab Truesdale, I don’t think it was a mistake, more of a lesson as I made a couple of big errors in those fights which I have never made since.”
Many of your fights have taken place on Supremacy, who themselves are a very legit show, but now you are getting your chance on BAMMA, a “big show” so to speak, how much are you looking forward to grabbing the opportunity with both hands?
“I’m looking forward to fighting on BAMMA, it’s a massive show and a big step up to what I’m used to, but the lights, cameras and crowd won’t affect my performance on the night.”
You are taking on Mike Neun who lost his last fight at BAMMA 10 in less than 10 seconds against Sam Mensah, will you be looking to do the same, or will you rely on your superior wrestling skills?
“Mike is a tough guy, he has an excellent background in Muay Thai, losing in less than 10 seconds is just plain unlucky, it could happen to anybody; I have a game plan and will be going to the fight looking to stick with my game plan.”
Sticking with the wrestling, it is not often that someone from the UK is a decorated wrestler, in the outlook of your career; in terms of going to the UFC etc do you think it would give you a superior advantage over many other UK guys, the fact that you have a wrestling base?
“I don’t think having a wrestling background will give me an advantage getting into the UFC, there are people in the UFC now who can’t wrestle, the UK guys in there now need to improve their wrestling skills, so just because I can wrestle doesn’t particularly mean I can fast track my way to the UFC.”
Also you help out in your local community, teaching youths how to wrestle, which meant that you got to carry the Olympic torch through your home town of Darlington, what feelings and emotions were running through you when you carried it?
“Yes I teach wrestling to the kids in my community who usually hang around street corners, misbehaving and getting arrested, drinking and taking drugs, not everyone is an angel but I’d say I have stopped 80% of them and they now are aspiring freestyle wrestlers!
Carrying the Olympic torch was fantastic! There were around 10,000 people in Darlington at the time the streets were packed! It was amazing! The best part is I was the only person in the entire world, for those 300 yards who was carrying the Olympic torch, AMAZING!”
Not many people give up their own time to do something for the community, why do you feel the need to help out these often under privileged kids?
“I give up my own time to help my community because they are 100% behind me, in my early wrestling days sometimes I had to put together some fundraisers, all of my community would attend them and donate their own money to helping me travel to camps or competitions. I believe if someone gives you something, then you should give back.”
Lastly, why do you fight? What motivates you?
“I love to fight, I started Muay Thai at the age of 6, whilst doing that I trained Judo for about 4 months, I did Thai boxing up until I was 12, then started wrestling full time with Muay Thai training once a week and wrestling 7 days a week. I get motivation from my sacrifices, I heard Tom “Kong” Watson, before his UFC debut say “I am prepared to live my life like most wont, so I can live my life like most can’t” – to me this saying means allot and is something I will remember for as long as I can, if I ever meet Tom I will thank him for this intelligent saying! (laughs)”
Anyone to thank?
“I’d like to thank BAMMA for giving me this opportunity to fight on their show, I’d also like to give a big thanks to my manager Mike Clarke who got this fight and has supported me since I signed, also my wonderful fiancé Katie who has been there since day 1, my friends and family who have also always been there, but a special thank you to my dad as without him I wouldn’t be fighting today. Also to my sponsors The Fight Lounge, JY Nutrition and Funky gums, and to love2fight magazine for taking the time to do this interview!”