LAURINBURG — Growing up, mixed martial arts fighter Blaine Thomas bounced from place to place, constantly moving because his father worked in the military. Despite living in countless locations and houses, he has always called Laurinburg home.
Thomas is a member of the Lumbee Tribe, and is one of the few Americans Indians competing in the MMA. His grandparents, William and Elizabeth Locklear, live in Wagram, and his mom graduated from Scotland High School. Thomas currently lives in Charleston, S.C., where he trains with his new team, Conflict MMA.
“It’s home, it’s where my family is at,” Thomas said of Laurinburg. “There’s really no other feeling like coming back to where your grandparents are and the rest of your family. Everywhere I’ve lived, it’s never been home. That is home.”
Thomas himself only lived in Scotland County briefly, attending an elementary school in Laurinburg before being uprooted once more to move to Panama.
By the time he was in the third grade, Thomas knew he wanted to pursue a MMA career.
“It’s what I wanted to do,” Thomas said. “I just never thought I would actually have the guts to get in there and do it.”
The 24-year-old is set to compete in one of the largest MMA events held in North Carolina on Aug. 22, at a Titan Fighting Championship event held at the Crown Coliseum in Fayetteville. Officially titled “Titan FC Riddle vs Saunders,” the event will be broadcast live on the CBS Sports Network starting at 7 p.m.
Thomas is scheduled to fight Tyler “Melee” Minton in the Welterweight division, which is the 170-pound class. Thomas has a 12-5 amateur MMA record, and a 4-2 professional record. Minton comes in with a 4-1 amateur MMA record and a 5-1 professional record.
“I always played sports, but the MMA is definitely the most emotional sport I’ve ever been in,” Thomas said. “When you win it’s huge and when you lose it’s absolutely catastrophic — it’s not like losing a football game.”
Thomas said he is especially anticipating this fight because it will be held so close to home.
“It means a lot to be fighting in front of friends and family and they don’t have to make a huge drive or flight to come watch me,” Thomas said. “This is just right down the road.”
Thomas isn’t exactly sure how many family members are coming to the event, but preparations to find seats for them all have already begun.
“It’s going to be quite a bit — I’m not sure of the exact number but I think we’ve already bought 70 tickets or something like that.”
As an American Indian, Thomas pays homage to his home by carrying a Lumbee flag every time he enters the cage. He said it provides him with the motivation he needs for every fight.
“It’s like carrying a whole nation on your back, you don’t want to make them look bad, you want to make them look good,” Thomas said with a laugh. “That’s a heavy amount of weight on my shoulders and it definitely gives me the motivation to work harder.”
Logan Martinez can be reached at 910-506-3170. Follow him on Twitter @L_Martinez13.