Having started wrestling at the age of 5, Williams has always shared a passion for MMA. Despite his career as a professional basketball player in the NBA, he finds himself training multiple times a week at his gym in Dallas.
“I go up there like 3, 4 times a week and I do everything,” Williams said. “I hit pads, I hit mitts, I hit the bag, I spar some, and I definitely roll jiu-jitsu. I do no-gi mainly; I rarely put on the gi.”
“I like all aspects of it, I just enjoy training MMA. I just try to improve in all areas and have fun doing it.”
While playing for the Utah Jazz, Williams became friends with Josh Burkman. He trained with him on and off and even walked him out to one of his fights. Seeing his friend progress and get into the UFC made Williams appreciate the process and the sport.
When he became a Maverick, one of his coaches trained jiu-jitsu and he took Deron with him to the gym. That’s when he met Sayif Saud who told him about a gym he was opening up. Deron took immediate interest and decided to become a business partner and co-owner of the gym, Fortis MMA.
Today, he watches plenty of talents get groomed under the tutelage of Coach Sayif Saud. One standout is Rashad Coulter who made his UFC debut back in May when he took on Chase Sherman.
Although he didn’t win the fight, he won plenty of people over with his toughness as he managed to battle through the fight on one leg. Williams for one, was very impressed with Coulter’s showing.
“He was dealing with an injury coming into the fight to that same leg,” Williams explained. “After probably the first kick he got hit with, his leg was done and so for him to stay in there like he did and battle and put on a show like that on short notice and not having a full training camp shows a lot about what he can do and how much heart he has.”
Coulter has his next fight booked as he will take on undefeated Australian knockout artist Tai Tuivasa in Sydney. Williams, who is often heavily involved with his fighters, gave his take on the match-up.
“He’s a big guy but he moves really well,” Williams said on Tuivasa. “He definitely tries to end fights early.”
And Williams feels that with a full camp, Coulter will be able to put on an even better performance.
“I’m looking forward to his next fight in November in Australia where he can really showcase his skills and what he can do.”
Fortis MMA has been in the spotlight in the past couple of months as multiple fighters were featured on Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series, fighting for a UFC contract.
“You saw a lot of our guys on the Contender Series,” Williams said. “You saw Geoff Neal who got a contract, you saw Charles Dynamite who got a contract, Kennedy who had a good fight, he was only 2-0, 3-0 now. He’s so young, he’s so raw and he has so much more to learn. He’s going to be a problem once he figures everything out and has a couple more years under his belt.”
Williams, who’s seen it all and competed with and against the best throughout his basketball career, still finds inspiration in these young athletes chasing their dreams.
“To see the progress of these guys is exciting for me,” Williams said. “I’ve been there, I’ve been that kid dreaming to be in the NBA just praying and hoping I could get there.”
“You could see how hungry these guys are and I’m excited to be able to be along for the journey, see the process of these guys and hopefully when one of these guys that nobody knows about that is fighting in LFA or XKO will be a future world champion in the UFC. That would be awesome to see.”
Williams even thought about stepping into the cage just to get a real feel and understanding of the sport.
“I’ve even contemplated doing one fight, maybe a charity fight. I’m doing this podcast, I watch fights and I talk about fights. It’s hard to talk about something that you haven’t done.”
“There are a lot of basketball analysts that have never played basketball at any level but they criticise and they critique but they’ve never walked in my shoes. So for me, I feel like I should at least fight one time just so I know what that feeling is like.”
That probably won’t happen while Williams is an active basketball player so for now he’ll have to break fights down with his passion and knowledge for MMA. He even weighed in on the massive boxing fight that took place last month between Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor.
“It was a good fight,” Williams said. “I didn’t know what to expect coming in, I don’t think anyone knew what to expect. I thought Conor did really well, he should be proud of what he did and what he accomplished. I also thought Floyd Mayweather fought a heck of a fight. I thought he fought an offensive fight which he usually doesn’t do, he changed up his game plan, he made Conor swing early and often.”
“You could see Conor got tired in that 10th round and Floyd was able to capitalise on it. It was an entertaining fight, better than a lot of boxing fights I’ve seen in the last 5 years from high level fighters. This one lived up to the hype in my opinion.”
You can catch plenty more analysis and thoughts from Deron Williams on his podcast, Ballers and Brawlers where he alongside Johnny Riche and UFC veteran Sean O’Connell talk all things combat sports.
Currently a free agent and unsure where his next step will be on the court, Williams will continue to watch his guys blossom on the grand stage of MMA.