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Tom DeBlass last competed in grappling in August of 2019 with a submission win in Atlantic City. The ADCC vet is known as one of the most influential figures in the grappling community and he makes his return to action in a title match at Fight to Win 157 on Nov 14.
FloGrappling: It's good to see you back in action after nearly a year out. You said you retired in 2019, but would it be fair to say that recent events brought you back?
Tom DeBlass: When the pandemic hit I was really worried about my school. And ONE Championship offered me an amazing deal I couldn't turn down, so I accepted. It was really worth the deal. I am supposed to fight early next year so I figured I'd warm up with a grappling match. Sometimes life takes unexpected turns. I'm never going to officially announce retirement again. I didn't expect this to happen, it's been 15 months, but here we are.
FG: You've been pretty open that you struggled at times during lockdown. How were you affected, both personally and professionally? How are things now, and how did you work on turning this around?
TD: In lockdown I did struggle. But I actually flourished financially in every aspect– my DVDs took off, my school never took a hit, but to see so many other people losing their businesses and losing their schools, their hard work, it crushed me, it killed me. It was almost like a direct attack on business owners and I kind of lost my mind a little bit. But I'm back now, and I'm more positive than ever.
FG: Let's talk about the match. Chad "Kodiak" Fields is a tough guy and a frequent competitor out of Fight Sports. You'll be squaring off for the Masters title belt. Not exactly a "gimme" match for a comeback!
TD: Chad is not a "gimme" match whatsoever and that's why I want it. I think he's a guy that actually deserves more attention. I think he could inspire so many people around the world: a middle-aged guy grinding, bettering himself. He's already successful, he moves to train with one of the best teams in the world, one of the best teachers– I have utmost respect for Cyborg, we're doing a camp together in February– I Know Chad is a tough guy. He's won everything at the Masters, and I think this match is going to be amazing. We both like each other and respect each other, and I'm just going to give my best and see what happens.
FG: Some of your students have been really active lately. Competing in Philly, are you bringing a crew?
TD: I have my guys competing as well. My purple belts went 4-0 on the last Fight to Win. Cameron Mellot, he's the F2W champ at purple belt and brown belt, he's going to get a black belt shot soon.
I just had Sam Micale join my squad. After he competed against Cameron, he joined my team, he's unbelievable with his leg locks, and his addition to my team is going to benefit both of us. He's going to be competing on F2W representing me this time.
Jaidyn Mueller will be there, my students Calvin Tacey, Tyler Rivera, Grant Kenny, Tommy Tropea, Garret Lavaggi and Miranda Zona are competing, it's going to be pretty amazing.
FG: Is there anything else you'd like to say?
TD: Lastly I just want to say to everybody the jiu-jitsu community thank you so much for your support. My instructional, I'm so happy that you guys enjoy them and it means the world to me. I lost my mind a little bit during the pandemic and not everybody even realized but I did. But now I'm back and I'll bring people the positivity they deserve. And thanks to FloGrappling once again for always bringing us the best in the world, I appreciate you guys.