Dana Blouin, a computer whiz PhD candidate, explains why he chooses to compete in MMA in Thailand’s Full Metal Dojo 5.
By James Goyder, Special Contributor
Blouin is a 37-year old from Boston who in his own words has ‘a few degrees’ in the telecommunications and information technology sector. He spends his days inside a laboratory studying for a PHD at one of Thailand’s top universities but will be stepping away from the computer screen to compete in a MMA fight tonight.
This highly qualified academic will be taking on fellow American expat Jon Nutt in a heavyweight bout at Full Metal Dojo 5 on May 9th. It seems strange for someone with such conspicuous intellectual assets to be competing in a professional MMA match and Blouin admits many of his contemporaries at the prestigious Thammasat University are bemused,
“Most Thai students find it very odd that I want to fight even though I have a successful academic career. Though once I explain that it’s just another way for me to test myself and have a good time they are a bit more open to the idea, many even becoming somewhat interested.”
Blouin might have collected so many technological qualifications that he can afford to be casual about the exact number but he also has a longstanding interest in MMA. The man who can normally be found conducting research into low power IPv6 wireless networks actually made his pro debut a decade ago,
“I became interested in the late ’90s and I can remember watching VHS tapes of old UFCs that my friend had when I lived in Boston. There was just something about the rawness of those early UFCs that was just magical to me. As a teenager who was not very experienced in martial arts in general I had some very skewed concepts about what they were and what the effectiveness of some of them would be. The first time I watch a UFC all of that was shattered.”
Blouin began to study the ground game and would go on to compile a professional record of 2-1 competing on the burgeoning Boston scene,
“At the time in the northeast there wasn’t much of a scene at all but in the early 2000s when I was really getting into it more and started training it was starting to grow, and there were a few promotions in the region and several gyms in the area. I came up more on the submission grappling side of things, that is where I really cut my teeth, so I spent a lot of time traveling around to different grappling tournaments. I had probably competed in more than five dozen grappling tournaments before I ever fought my first MMA fight.”
His fight is set for Live House in Bangkok and is the subject of much speculation and scrutiny in Thailand because he is taking on FMD promoter Jon Nutt. Both men are well known expats and Blouin is often asked to explain exactly why he’s going up against a long term friend,
“For most people the idea of fighting a friend is odd but to me and I think for Jon as well it’s just sport. If Jon and I both liked basketball we would have no issue playing a game of one-on-one. We both happen to like fighting, we both happen to be fighters, so why should this sport be any different? We are going to punch each other in the face, we are both going to have a good time doing it and when it’s all said and done we are going to sit down and have a glass of bourbon together and keep having a good time.”
For someone in the midst of a highly successful career in the world of academia, returning to the cage after an absence of nearly ten years seems a surprising move. Blouin’s services as a freelance tech writer are very much in demand; he’s not doing it for the money but says the lure of competition was simply too great to resist,
“I want to test myself out, I want to see if I can still do it. I have no plans of making a comeback or anything like that, this fight is a one off for me, I am 36 years old and am very happy to do research, write articles for magazines and crunch numbers. But I am also a competitive person. If I liked some other sport I would probably be trying to give that a go, it just so happens I am a fight fan, so I will fight.”
It’s rare to find Thais who compete much higher than 155 lbs and the lack of heavyweights in the region was a key factor in this fight getting made. Nutt and Blouin both struggle to find suitable sized training partners, let alone opponents but the PHD student says he had least found a local gym to help him get in shape,
“I am training at Muchzhima MMA which is located right on the Thammasat University campus in Rangsit. It’s a tight knit group of guys with a passion for kicking ass, what more could one ask for?”
It’s testament to how rapidly the sport has grown in Thailand that one of the country’s most famous old universities is now home to an MMA gym. Blouin has served as a referee for numerous promotions in the region, including FMD itself, and Malaysia’s MIMMA, and he believes Thai fighters are ready to burst onto the international scene,
“From my perspective, MMA as a sport in Thailand is still in the early stages of development. Combat sports have a deep history here and Muay Thai is a very good fit for MMA as a standup art. There are still a lot of fighters learning the ground game, but in just the short time I have been here I have seen a dramatic advance in that area. I would say within the next five years there will be Thai fighters on the world stage, especially in the smaller weight classes.”
This professor in waiting will be putting his body on the line in the fight at FMD 5. Instead of studying complex subjects like power constrained sensor networks, Blouin will be using his undoubted intellect to solve the puzzle presented by a heavyweight opponent inside the cage.