Friday, July 11, 2008

Denny lives up to his wild ways

by Ariel Helwani, (as seen on

For more exclusive MMA interviews, check out -- the new voice of mixed martial arts.

On July 26, Thomas "Wildman" Denny faces Nick Diaz in enemy territory — Diaz's hometown of Stockton, Calif., on the second EliteXC on CBS show. The former King of the Cage veteran has won four of his last five, including his EliteXC debut last March.'s Ariel Helwani spoke to Denny about the biggest fight of his career and his heated rivalry with Diaz. You're a very unique fighter and have a very unique style. Where did the nickname "Wildman" come from?
TD: You know what? When I first started this mixed martial arts thing, I used every different kind of nickname I could come up with. I mean, every fight it was something different just to be a little unique and different. That's what's predictable about the "Wildman" is that he's unpredictable. I was out as the Destroyer, the Tiger, all kinds of different things. I got an email from a promoter out in Colorado with the letters "I got It — the Wildman".

And so actually I was talking to my wife, I'm like, "Hey, the Wildman?" And she's like, "Yeah, that's you. Perfect." It's kinda just stuck, and I've stuck with it. July 26 is a huge fight for you over in Stockton, Calif. as you'll be facing hometown boy Nick Diaz. I was actually quite critical of EliteXC for booking this fight, not because of you but just because of all the buzz that was surrounding the Diaz-KJ Noons' fight. I figured it was obvious that Nick's next fight would be against KJ. So were you also surprised when you heard that your next fight was against Nick?

TD: Yeah, I was really surprised. I kinda think everybody agreed with that, you know the little thing that happened, the little eruption afterwards or whatever. Nick is a showman. I don't know if you know; he means it all the time. But he comes off as kind of a jackass and a lot of people don't think he has a lot of class in the sport, and that little eruption that happened afterwards and flipping people off and whatever, I thought, "Man, yeah, they'll definitely book that." But I guess Noons wants some time off and wants to take the fight serious where Nick wants to fight as much as he can. What are your thoughts on some of Diaz's antics especially following the KJ Noons-Yves Edwards fight? Do you think his behavior was justified?

TD: You know what? It's definitely too much. It's over the top. Like I said, it's no class. The thing is we're trying to build this sport, and this sport is getting so big and, I'll tell you what, I got a lot of kids that are fans of mine and I would be pretty bummed out if some of my fans came up to me and they asked me, "Hey, Thomas, why are you flipping dudes off?" And that's kinda giving them that thing where they can flip people off and, "Hey, it's cool to flip people off." Nick, come on, have some class. You know you shouldn't be flipping people off. So I'm guessing that his behavior kind of adds some fuel to your fire.

TD: Yes, it definitely does. It's obviously a good cop/bad cop kinda thing. I don't mind it; it adds a little flavor. He talks a lot of trash about me and however he perceives me with painting my fingernails and doing my hair and stuff like that. You know, he's a pretty shallow person because he doesn't even really realize what that is. That's something from my family that's given to me and that's my kids being a part of my fighting tradition, and he can look at me as being a fag or whatever he wants, but when I'm punching him in the face he'll think a little differently. What's your take on Diaz's coming into his last fight against Muhsin Corbrbey nine pounds over weight?

TD: Oh man, I thought it was ridiculous. If I was Muhsin Corbbrey, I wouldn't even have taken the fight. When you're at that level — and obviously, he didn't dedicate himself and didn't train like he was supposed to — how the hell do you come nine pounds over weight? I could understand one pound, a pound-and-a-half, because scales are off, but nine pounds? That's not even trying. [Muhsin] did everything right. He did his diet right, he comes in on weight, and then here's this guy that didn't even care. That's just disrespect. But like I said, no class, disrespectful guy seems kinda hand-in-hand. Let's see if he makes weight for my fight. [If] he comes into my fight nine pounds over weight, he's not gonna have a fight to fight. So let's just say you were in Corbbrey position. Would you have just said, "No, I'm not taking it,"?

TD: I would have said no. I would have turned and walked away. I would have said go cut weight, and if they don't make him cut weight, then it's not even worth taking the fight. That's a different weight class. That's not even in the right weight class. You're facing Diaz in his hometown. Will that phase you at all?

TD: [My favorite] way to fight is when I'm the worst underdog. I mean, when I fought Georges St. Pierre, I was a huge underdog. But I went in and I still fought and fought well. I mean, I took him deep in the water. I fight best when I'm the underdog. You boo me, you throw water bottles at me, and that's just gonna make me fight even better. You've been around this sport a long time, did you ever think you would have a chance to fight on a platform quite like CBS?

TD: It's gonna be huge, and that's why I'm excited to be a part of it. I'm excited that EliteXC has given me this opportunity to be a part of it. Like I said, originally when they first brought up the first show to me, I kinda was hesitant. I was like, "Ah, you know what? Let's wait. It's the first CBS show and maybe I'd be on the next show." And here it is, and it was written in the stars because here's the second CBS show, I'm on it and then I'm against Diaz, a guy I don't like anyways. So this is perfect for me and it's the number-one contender spot, so what more could I ask for? I don't think it's pressure at all. They actually offered you a spot on the first CBS show?

TD: Well, yeah. When they first started talking about the CBS show and actually [EliteXC head of fight operations] Jeremy Lappen and I were on the same "Inside MMA" show together, and he had asked, "Well, would you be interested in fighting on that show?" And I said, "Oh, probably not, because it's happening so fast." And then that's what I was thinking in my own mind, I was like, "Man, let that first show play out, see how it goes, see how the turnout is and then the next show maybe I can get on there." And then, sure enough, here it is. Have they given you any firm indication that a number one contender spot is on the line for their 160-lbs. title?

TD: I don't see why it wouldn't. That's what it seems to be, that everybody's building it up as, "Here's the spot for number one and number two, so why don't the winner fight KJ?" Obviously, they are planning for Noons-Diaz II, but you can really mess up their plans with a win.

TD: Oh, like I said, I'm the underdog in this one knowing everybody still judges me from when I fought nine years ago. You know what I mean? When I first came into this sport, I never had a trainer, I never had anything. I just jumped in. I was a good kickboxer, a good boxer, and jumped into this MMA world, and people are still judging me as that guy from nine years ago.

So continue to judge me as that guy because I've evolved. I'm a mixed martial artist now. I'm training harder for this fight than I've trained for anything. So people are just gonna doubt me and then when I do go in and I do shock the world, they're gonna think to themselves, "Man, we can't count this Wildman out. He still is evolving as a martial artist". Your last victory (on March 28) was a controversial one as you won via DQ against Malaipet after he elbowed you in the back of the head. What was your take on how the end of that fight played out?

TD: You know what? I don't think it was controversial at all. I think it was a pretty one-sided fight if you watched the fight. Malaipet was looking for a way out and it's not like I go and in my gym I'm like, "Hey guys, elbow me in the back of the head and the neck as hard as you can, so I can feel what kind of effect it's gonna give me, so I can see if it's gonna knock me out or it's gonna give me a muscle spasm in my neck or whatever it's gonna do." It was a one-sided fight. You know, the guy oiled up to get out of my submissions. He knew I was gonna submit him so he oiled up. He was nice and slick on the ground and so then, as you see, I changed my game plan from submission to just start pounding his face in with elbows and punches. His orbital socket was all messed up, he had a huge cut over his eye, welts all over his forehead. So controversial? Yeah, on his part, not on my part. Was there any talk of a rematch after that fight?

TD: There never was because the first thing he wanted was to drop down to the 150-pound weight class, and in order for me to get to a 150-pound weight cut I'd have to cut off my left leg. So I don't think that'll work...seeing a one-legged fighter.



Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home