Last week, former Ring of Combat light heavyweight champion Tom DeBlass got called up to the big show as a replacement opponent for Cyrille Diabate on the upcoming UFC on Fuel TV 2 card. DeBlass has been a top ranked regional athlete in both the light heavyweight and heavyweight classes for some time and has been expecting to eventually end up in the world’s largest MMA organization. Facing a fighter like “The Snake” on Fuel TV with two weeks notice was not so expected.
“I knew I was high on the list,” DeBlass told The Fight Nerd.com. “I thought we’d get a full training camp [when I got in to the UFC]. But, I got the call and I wasn’t going to say ‘no.’”
DeBlass was offered a four-fight deal by the UFC, including his bout against Diabate this Saturday. Longer-term contracts are considered the norm for prospects called up to the UFC on short notice. Such agreements are viewed by managers and analysts as an insurance policy should a fighter with a stunted training camp not be able to put in his best performance. DeBlass, however, had no reservations about his ability to train for Diabate’s unusual body type and style in the time remaining.
“I’m preparing for him,” DeBlass continued. “One of my training partners has the same tall build. I have someone else coming in who’s 6’6 and a south paw. He’s basically identical [to Diabate]…. Since Monday I’ve been in training. I never let myself get out of shape. I feel I match up well against him”
Even with a proper team immediately at the ready, putting together a training camp on short notice is not without its stresses. As a father of a young daughter, instructor at New Jersey’s OCBJJ and a devout Christian nearing a key time of religious observance in Easter, DeBlass already had a lot on his plate before the news of the Diabate fight. But, according to DeBlass, the second he got the call “the world stopped,” and he needed to rely on his family to allow him to put all his effort into training.
Read more about DeBlass’ family, teaching, and fighting after the jump.
“They’re so supportive,” DeBlass said of the people closest to him. “My fiance, Delilah, is used to me being able to come home and spend time with my daughter when I don’t have a fight. That way she has some time to breathe. But, with this she had to step up even more.”
The UFC on Fuel TV 2 card will be held in Stockholm, Sweden. The addition of travel has only added to the time sinks involved in training. Still, DeBlass’ only spoken lament about the crunch was that he could not put in time as an instructor at his school, which he normally does even during camps. While DeBlass was highly complimentary of his staff, instructing while training is something he’s become accustomed to.
“I hated that I couldn’t really teach,” he said.
DeBlass is also learning on the fly how much more publicity comes with the call up to the UFC. His issue with the attention wasn’t actually a negative one.
“I’ve been getting love from everybody,” DeBlass discussed local MMA fans and well-wishers. “I’ll always just be me. I’m no different than the guy I was two weeks ago…. I just wish I could respond to everyone.”
While he couldn’t respond to everyone the way he would like, DeBlass’ list of people to thank was as long as any upcoming prospect’s.
“I always put Jesus and God first,” DeBlass said. “My fiance, my daughter, my team. My manager Ali. A couple of weeks after signing with him I’m in the UFC. Oh, and Brian Blue. He handles my conditioning.”
UFC on Fuel TV 2 will broadcast live from Stockholm, Sweden on April 14. The event will be the first time the UFC has come to the landet lagom and has so-far received a response that was pretty far from moderate. The Swedish event currently holds the record for the fastest sell-out crowd of any European MMA card.