Interview with Ryan "The Tank Engine" Thomas

"I’m gonna make a statement on Daniel Head’s face." ProfileRyan Thomas

Photo: Steve Brylka

Ryan Thomas has had experience dealing with adversity so when things didn’t go his way in 2010, he went right back to work.  The 11-6 welterweight trains out of American Top Team in Florida, but he got his start right here in the midwest.  Thomas made the transition to MMA when Eastern Illinois cut their wrestling program while he was still on the team.  Thomas worked his way up to the UFC and was a participant in the Bellator season 2 welterweight tournament where he fought and lost to eventual champion Ben Askren twice.  Thomas would go on to lose a decision to "Judo" Jim Wallhead with an invite to the season 4 welterweight tournament on the line.

Needless to say, Thomas has plans for bigger and better things in 2011.  It all starts in a homecoming of sorts on February 19th when he squares off with dangerous submission artist Daniel Head in the main event of Colosseum Combat XVI in Kokomo, Indiana

Ryan was kind enough to speak with about his upcoming fight with Daniel Head and his future prospects.

When asked how he planned to get back on track in 2011, Ryan had a very simple answer.

"Well it starts with Daniel Head.  I’ve just got let people know that I’m for real.  I’m gonna make a statement on his face.  All the fights I’ve won, I’ve finished my opponent.  I plan to keep doing the same thing with Daniel Head.  He’s a tough guy.  He hangs in there and waits for you to make a mistake but he’s used to fighting 155 pounders.  I think he’s gonna have a hard time hanging in there with me with my power and strength advantage."

Thomas plans on using the momentum of a win over Head to propel himself into immediate relevancy for the next Bellator welterweight tournament after season 4 concludes.

"I’ve got one more fight on my contract," said an excited Thomas.  "This fight will help me go into the Bellator fight with a little momentum behind me.  Coming off a loss, I’ve just gotta make sure I come into the Daniel Head fight in shape, stay in shape and roll right into the Bellator season which opens up March 5th. It’s 12 weeks long so I’m expecting to fight some time in that timespan."

After losing in the season 2 welterweight tournament, Thomas made a big change.  He packed up his bags and moved from Illinois to Florida to train with one of the premiere MMA fight camps, American Top Team.

"Florida’s been great", said Thomas.  "I live real close to the gym.  Back in Illinois I was driving two hours a day to the gym and a couple hours back from the gym.  I’ve been doing a lot of jiu jitsu with Master Ricardo Liborio and Master Conan Silveira."

Thomas actually trained with Daniel Head’s current jiu jitsu instructor James Clingerman every week when he lived in Illinois.  He understands that Head will have plenty of inside info on his game but he assured us that he has evolved considerably since he moved to Florida.

"I think I’ve evolved a lot and my striking has evolved a lot too.  I’ve been working with top guys here training with all the big name pros and I’m hanging with them and that’s something to be said for the stable of fighters they have down here.  I definitely have to be on my toes though because if I slip up (Daniel)’s gonna snatch me in something."

Throughout his burgeoning MMA career, Thomas was studying to be an elementary school teacher.  Both Ryan and his opponent Daniel Head actually received degrees in elementary education.  Thomas graduated in 2009 and continued his education, recently earning his endorsement to teach Physical Education.

"I have my first job interview three days after the Daniel Head fight so the goal in that fight is to not get too beat up", said a laughing Thomas.  "It’s for a first and second grade PE position so I don’t want to go in there looking like Sloth from the Goonies.  I definitely want to come out of this fight better looking than I did after the Wallhead fight."

Speaking of Jim Wallhead, Thomas had heaps of praise for the tough British judo specialist.

"He’s a tough guy, really respectful and tough as nails.  I worked my wrestling a lot and I couldn’t take him down.  Jim probably has the best takedown defense of anyone I’ve ever fought.  I took down Ben Askren but I couldn’t take down Jim Wallhead.  I’ve been working on that, working on my striking and working off my back a lot more.  I got banged up a little bit when I pulled guard on him so I’m making sure that next time I’m on my back I’m gonna not get punched and go for some submissions and hopefully get something going off my back.

If Judo Jim can get through the tournament and match up with Askren, I think that’d be a really good matchup for Wallhead because he’s got the best takedown defense in the tournament.  He might have the best chance at keeping it standing."

When the name of the Bellator welterweight champion, Ben Askren, was brought up, Thomas discussed the almost other-worldly power that Askren has in sucking his opponents into grappling matches.

"He does that to everybody.  You go in there with a gameplan of sprawl and brawl and he’s just got something about him where he turns it into a wrestling match.  Nobody’s gonna win a wrestling match with Ben Askren in MMA."

The interview made a cyclical turn, returning back to Thomas’ upcoming opponent.  Ryan realizes that there are parallels between Askren and Daniel Head when it comes to the gameplan for his Colosseum Combat main event.

"I have to make sure I don’t fall into the same trap with Daniel Head", said a cautious Thomas.  "His gameplan is going to be similar.  He’s going to know that I’m a better striker just like Askren did and he’s probably gonna wanna be on top.  I think Daniel Head’s Achilles heel is absorbing too much damage from bottom so I don’t think he’s gonna wanna be on his back against me.  He’s gonna try to get on top of me which is the same gameplan I was trying to work on against Ben Askren.  I have to make sure I don’t fall into that trap again.  I don’t want to turn this into a grappling match against Daniel Head because I know that’s his strong point."

When asked about his goals for 2011, Thomas said he first wants to defeat Daniel Head.  After that, he’d love to have a fight with MMA veteran Shonie Carter which he says is potentially in the works.  He also stated that he wants to renegotiate a new contract with Bellator and secure an invite to the next welterweight tournament to go after the title.

Ryan Thomas would like to thank his sponsors and friends: American Top Team, the Institute of Human Performance,, Enlightening Fashion, The Business Card Shopp, Integrity Streetwear, Jim Hartt Physical Therapy and Tim Wills at Modern Fighting Systems who helped him schedule his upcoming fight.

\The FanPosts are solely the subjective opinions of Bloody Elbow readers and do not necessarily reflect the views of Bloody Elbow editors or staff.

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