Monday, July 21, 2008

Ultimate Challenge: Hesperia MMA fighter Thomas 'Wildman' Denny gets ready for big fight

July 19, 2008 - 5:05PM
Star Editor

Holding a stop watch in one hand, timer Dustin Rhodes is transfixed on a spirited mixed martial arts bout taking place in the chain-linked center ring of Universal Training Facility.

“Now’s the time. Dig deep,” yells Rhodes, himself a black belt in jiu-jitsu. “Keep going. Go, go, go! Looking good!”

The man Rhodes is urging onward is Thomas Denny, a Hesperia resident whose take-no-prisoners approach to ultimate fighting has earned him the nickname “Wildman.” This day, Denny, with the protection of padded training gloves, is punching and kneeing sparring partner Sam Mateo. While only a training session, both fighters are immersed in sweat on a sweltering summer day.

On Saturday, July 26, Denny will fight one of the biggest fights of his long career in the ring. The nationally-televised CBS EliteXC Saturday Night Fights event will pit the veteran against an impressive new MMA fighter, Nick Diaz.

Mike Phillips, who writes about MMA in the Victor Valley for the Daily Press, was on hand to observe the training session.

“It’s huge. Huge,” Phillips, who maintains a Web site dedicated to the local ultimate fighting scene, said of the upcoming event.

And the fighter agrees.

“I’m more excited for this fight than any fight in my career,” Denny said following the workout. “I’m ready to shine.”

While Denny doesn’t train with hanging sides of beef, there are other similarities to “Rocky.” Coming into the fight with a record of 39-13-0, the 37-year-old is facing the talented Diaz, a 24-year-old with a record of 17-7. And the odds are with the younger fighter.

“No one’s expecting me to last past the first round,” said.

But that doesn’t bother Denny. In fact, it pumps him up. When asked how he likes the odds, he answered, “I love them. I think a lot of people are going to make a lot of money on me.”

The reason is simple: Denny believes he can win because his technical strengths will be hard for Diaz to overcome.

“I think I’m a bad style for him. I hit hard. I have a lot of cardio (cardiovascular conditioning). I think I’m bad for him.”

To the untrained eye, Denny certainly looks ready. Possessing a six-pack’s worth of hard-body abdominal muscles and seemingly not a speck of fat, Denny has earned his tip-top conditioning the hard way. Earlier in the day, he ran five miles, lifted weights, and then took a well-earned nap.

He also eats a diet that is “lean and clean” by concentrating solely on fruits, vegetables and lean meats. The fighter completely ignores breads, rice, pasta and other starches.

“I’m on a very strict diet. I’m very fit right now.”

Normally fighting in the 170 pound class, the 5’9” Denny will lose 10 pounds this week and weigh in at 160 before the fight.



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