CJ De Tomas on winning gold, avenging his father, and getting one step closer to his lifelong dream
CJ De Tomas was barely in his puberty when his father, Charles “El Tigre” De Tomas, fought Hideo Morikawa in URCC/Tribal Gear Dutdutan 2010. Morikawa connected with a knee on the older De Tomas that led to a doctor stoppage in favor of the Japanese.
Close to six years since, 19-year-old CJ De Tomas, one of the youngest yet most talented fighters in the URCC’s current roster, will have the uncanny opportunity to bring home the URCC flyweight belt and avenge his father’s loss by defeating one man on April 23.
“Nakalaban na ni Papa si Hideo nung nakaraan,” De Tomas told MMA Philippines. “Natuhod si Papa illegally at na-stop ang fight dahil sa cut. So parang revenge thing narin yung laban namin ni Hideo.”
Of course, the revenge plot is secondary to CJ, who sees the opportunity of claiming URCC gold as a stepping stone to his lifelong dream of becoming a UFC fighter. “Sobrang saya ko [nung nalaman kong lalaban ako para sa titulo]. Simula palang ako sa MMA, pangarap ko nang mag-champion sa URCC. Kasi alam ko na pag nag-champion ako, makakapasok ako sa UFC. Yun ang pinaka-goal ko.”
If you’re thinking, “Here we go again! Another story about a Filipino MMA fighter wanting to get to the big leagues!” CJ De Tomas has – like one Mystic Mac – predicted his own destiny and is actively pursuing the milestones he set for himself. “Sabi ko nung nagsa-start palang ako, ‘Kailangan pag 18 years old ako, champ na ako, at pag nasa 20’s na ako, nasa UFC na ako.’ Fourteen years old ako nung first fight ko sa MMA. Nag-champ ako nung 18 sa Warriors League Championship last year. Siyempre iba pag sa URCC. Longest running MMA competition ito sa bansa. So malaking karangalan na mag-champion sa URCC.”
And unlike other athletes who saw MMA only as an opportunity to rise out of poverty, CJ was raised if not born to be a fighter. “Five years old palang ako nag-boxing na ako. Eight years old, nagsimula nang mag-Muay Thai. Tapos nag-BJJ ako sa KMA Fabricio; blue belt na po ako under Coach Stephen Kamphuis. Nag-national team din po ako ng wrestling.”
With such a pedigree, CJ has made full use of his arsenal to neutralize his opponent whether on their feet or on the ground. “Well-rounded fighter po ako. Base po sa galaw ng kalaban ko kung anong game plan ang ginagawa ko. Gumagawa ako ng game plan in every fight. Binabago ko po yung galaw ko, pantapat sa galaw ng kalaban ko.”
And what would his game plan be against Hideo? “Medyo parehas lang galaw ko kay Hideo [tulad ng huli kong laban kay Carlo Laurel]. Kung may iba man, medyo magre-relax ako sa striking para tumagal ako. Gaya ni Laurel, well-rounded si Morikawa; yun lang mas zombie ang dating. Kahit five rounds, buhay parin. Kahit na knock down na siya, nakaka-recover siya agad. Para talaga siyang zombie!
“Para sa akin, pangit yung laro ko nung kay Laurel. Masyado akong nanggigil. Nanigas agad yung kamao ko kaya naibabawan niya ako nung second round. Kaya magre-relax ako. Tatanggalin ko yung gigil.”
And just before we ended our conversation, CJ told us something that I think reflected his self-belief and passion for the sport. “Maniwala kayo, napapanaginipan ko yung mangyayari sa laban. Para bang naglalaban na kami sa utak ko. Lalo na pag gumagawa na ako ng gameplan, napapanaginipan ko kung ano ang gusto kong mangyari.”
“Sa ngayon, low profile muna ang training ko. Matagal pa naman ang laban,” he told us at the close. I’m pretty sure, CJ De Tomas is already imagining his title fight against Hideo Morikawa, evaluating the possible scenarios he could be in, and, in his mind’s eye, he is envisioning his arms being raised and the URCC belt strapped around his waist.
John Hudson Go is the Editor-in-Chief of MMA Philippines.