Back in the fight: Herrera returns to MMA with charity on his mind

Published 8:44 pm Thursday, August 3, 2017

It’s been a over a year since Thomas Herrera of Austin has been in the arena for an MMA fight. Now he’s ready to get back at it, and he’s also ready to keep keep giving back to the community.

Herrera, who is 25 years old, has raised $23,150 for charity since he began fighting six years ago and he’s looking to raise more funds for his favorite charity — Operation Christmas Eve — as he prepares for his next fight. Herrera will return to action when he takes on Kaleb Dingman in Mecca X at Canterbury Park in Shakopee Sept. 9.

The proceeds from all of Herrera’s fight ticket sales and sponsorships will be donated to Operation Christmas Eve, which provides area children with Christmas gifts. That cause has motivated Herrera to train himself back into shape after he returned from a 10-month Army national guard deployment in Egypt on June 7.

Thomas Herrera sends a kick at Melvin Cruz in the fourth round of Herrera’s Middleweight title defense Friday night during the A-Town Throwndown III at the Holiday Inn and Convention Center. Herald File Photo

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“It’s literally the driving force in my training. I push myself harder and harder every day, because I know that there are children out there who depend on the Salvation Army for meals or for Christmas presents,” Herrera said. “If I’m not able to perform to my absolute best and I’m not able to raise this money, then I’m not able to help.”

Sometimes it can be difficult for soldiers to adjust to everyday life when they return home from their duties overseas and Herrera said getting back into MMA has helped him overcome those struggles. Herrera said he was told to find something with structure and to stay busy when returning to civilian life. In training for his next fight, Herrera has found both of those things.

Thomas Herrera trains at Total Fitness Wendnesday. Herrera is set to fight in the Middleweight title match in Cantebury Park Sept. 9. Rocky Hulne/

“It’s nice to finally be back at home, although when I first got back it was a little tough to adjust to civilian life. I was in a whole different world,” Herrera said. “There was nothing but dirt and sand over there and here we have green and water. I hadn’t seen that in a long time. Seeing things that people wouldn’t normally see overseas changes people and their perspectives. [Training] has helped me a lot, it’s helped me relieve some stress and it’s my coping.”

Herrera has now begun to use CrossFit training and he said it has helped him take his training to a new level.

“I wish I was introduced to this when I first started fighting,” Herrera said. “It’s high intensity and it gets you in the best shape you can possibly be in.”

Herrera said that he doesn’t consider giving back to the community to be any sort of burden and he embraces the task. He encourages everyone to give back to the community if they can give anything.

“It’s the right thing to do and I wish everybody would do something,” Herrera said. “Whatever you can do with whatever you have, you should be using to help people that are less fortunate.”

To donate to Operation Christmas Eve, contact Herrera on Facebook or e-mail him at

Herrera has a record of 9-4 as an amateur fighter and he lost his most recent tithe to James Waller in the A-Town Throwdown in March of 2016.