Tom DeBlass stood across the octagon from his opponent moments before his last mixed martial arts fight began.
“My mindset going into every fight was to destroy the object in front of me,” Tom said. “I didn’t really look at them as human beings. I looked at them as objects that were physically trying to impose their will on me, so I wanted to execute my will against them.”
The fighters had traded strikes for 93 seconds into the first round when Tom connected with a tight left hook. His opponent dropped to the ground but immediately popped back up, and the fight continued. Only 13 seconds later, Tom landed the same left hook, and the fight was over.
That is the moment when most fighters explode with excitement to celebrate their moment of glory, but Tom dropped to his knees to embrace the other fighter, who was unconscious on the mat.
“The moment I knocked him out, I questioned what I was doing there,” Tom said. “It was hard to celebrate when I knew he also had a daughter and his whole world had just come crashing down.”
Hurting opponents was never Tom’s goal, but to win in MMA, you have to hurt the other person; otherwise, that person is going to hurt you.
“It was just a weird feeling,” Tom said. “For sure, I want to be the one winning, but another person had to lose viciously. That’s when I knew my run was coming to an end with this MMA thing.”
Tom DeBlass is a UFC veteran with a professional mixed martial arts record of nine wins and two losses. Tom is a third-degree black belt under Ricardo Almeida and is a world champion Jiu-Jitsu competitor with numerous championship wins at ADCC, No Gi Worlds, Grappler’s Quest, and others. He is the founder of Ocean County Jiu-Jitsu in New Jersey and has created numerous BJJ instructional videos for BJJ Fanatics.
Tom’s drive, which has enabled him to become one of the top American Jiu-Jitsu competitors, began when he was young.
“My story is pretty deep,” Tom said. “What led me to become successful has been a lot of pain and suffering. I’ve been through things most humans have not been through—emotionally, I suffered a lot.”
Tom described his dad as a loving father, but he struggled with drugs and alcohol when Tom was growing up.
“I saw a lot as a kid,” Tom said. “Seeing some of the things I went through was not always easy. I had to overcome a lot of emotional hardship and sadness, but I wouldn’t take back a thing. Everything I went through made me who I am today. It’s made me unbreakable. It’s given me extreme resilience and perseverance because I’ve already seen so much, so what else can be thrown at me that I can’t handle?”
Tom was an aggressive kid, so at 19, he found Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, which gave him a positive outlet.
“I had a lot of anger,” Tom said, “but I never used that aggression to hurt innocent people. I always wanted to fight for a cause, so I found Jiu-Jitsu.”
When Tom began Jiu-Jitsu, he was driven by his need to win, and it was resilience that enabled him to become successful.
“Some people break mentally,” Tom said. “If you’re not willing to come back day after day, regardless of how you feel, you’re never going to make it. Pressure cracks people, and a lot of people break when the pressure comes on. You can’t just walk away when things are tough. You’ve got to fight through your toughest days.”
That resilience has enabled Tom to become very successful in Jiu-Jitsu and MMA, but the appeal of medals was short-lived.
“As soon as I won, I wanted to win more,” Tom said. “It was immediate gratification, but then it was empty because I was never satisfied.”
Tom still enjoys competition, but looking back, he would have done it a little differently.
“The one thing I would have changed,” Tom said, “is I would have been happier with my accomplishments rather than just looking for the next one. I still enjoy competing and being a champion, but I’ve also learned the most important things in life are not medals. The most important thing in life is helping others.
“Even though I’ve been through a lot, I never resented the human race because of it. It made me compassionate to other people who were suffering. It made me want to help them. I realized I could touch people’s lives emotionally through Jiu-Jitsu and help them change their life for the better.”
Tom saw the potential of Jiu-Jitsu to help people lose weight, relieve stress, and reach their personal goals.
“I’m working on touching as many lives as possible,” Tom said. “It was such an inspiration for me to reach a level where I could inspire other people to overcome some of the obstacles I overcame. How can I not wake up inspired every day when I have the ability to change people’s lives?”
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