Din Thomas wants to break the stigma that surrounds the subject of men’s depression in the mixed martial arts world.
The respected veteran won 26 fights in an MMA career which spanned from 1998-2013, and along the way, he noticed that when fighters encounter life’s struggles, they’re not always addressed in the healthiest of ways.
“People come into the fight business with problems, and they don’t always deal with them,” Thomas told MMA Junkie. “When you’re fighting, it’s like your manhood is on the line every time. So people don’t want to say when they need help, they think it’s soft. And that’s got change.”
So when the 44-year-old Thomas, who took up cycling over the past year, wanted to set a goal for himself, he decided to think big and find a cause.
“As an athlete, you’re always looking for the next thing and the next challenge,” Thomas said. “So when I started riding, I started thinking, like, ‘I want to bike across Florida.’ You start thinking about things like that and then you work towards it and try to make it happen.”
After doing his first century (100-mile) ride, Thomas decided it was time to give his cross-Florida ride a shot, and he found his cause: Heads Up Guys, a foundation run by the University of British Columbia which works towards the management and prevention of depression in men.
Thomas set out Friday, New Year’s Day — which was chosen because it was the anniversary of his mother’s passing — and pedaled approximately 210 miles from Titusville, on Florida’s Atlantic Coast, west to Clearwater, on the Gulf Coast.
Aside from the occasional wrong turn and some killer wind gusts on Day 2, Thomas reports the cycling went smooth.
“It was awesome, man,” Thomas said. “It was a great experience. It was mostly on trails, we got lost a couple times but that’s alright. The second day come up to the coast the wind was legit, there was times I wanted to get off my bike and walk but it was like, ‘I already came this far.’”
Thomas set up a GoFundMe page to help raise money for Heads Up Guys. You can go here to make a donation.
He’s also hoping awareness will come from his efforts.
“A lot of guys, when their fighting days are over, their problems haven’t gone away and for some guys it gets worse when they don’t have that outlet any more,” Thomas said. “I’ve been there myself. What I want people to know is, if you’re struggling, you can get help. Don’t give up.”
I want to thank everybody who supported me in this journey. This is just the first of many. Never be satisfied. Stay strong and always strive for greatness.
To all the guys going through something, don’t be afraid to get help. @headsupguys
Thank you again!!! pic.twitter.com/2YwFz8tlD6
— Din Thomas (@DinThomas) January 3, 2021