CENTRAL FALLS, RI – There’s no fight greater than the one for your constituents in the city where you were born and raised – the city where you learned some of life’s most valuable lessons, all of which helped mold you into the person you are today.
So for Thomas Evans, professional MMA fighter, gym owner and philanthropist, the decision to run for an At-Large City Council seat in his hometown of Central Falls made perfect sense. Having fought some of MMA’s top competitors over the span of a decade, Evans knows the battle on election night in November will be tougher than any he’s faced throughout his professional career.
As is often the case in politics, there’s a twist. In addition to running his campaign, which includes its share of public appearances and interviews, Evans is preparing for his long-awaited return to MMA, beginning Friday, January 24 at Twin River Casino Hotel when he faces Vermont’s Johnny Adams on the preliminary card of CES MMA 60.
Everything ties together perfectly; Evans’ comeback gives him the opportunity to break his 0-fer in the CES MMA cage – he’s winless in three attempts – and reveal his personality as a relatable candidate, not the typical suit-and-tie nominee you often see on the campaign trail. Furthermore, he’s using the commission from his ticket sales to help fund youth baseball in Central Falls, one of several bullet points on his campaign platform.
“This fight is not about my career at all,” said Evans, who fights in a professional MMA bout January 24 for the first time in seven years. “This fight an opportunity to take martial arts and give back to a community.”
The days are exceptionally long on the campaign trail, but even longer for Evans, who balances raising his five-year-old daughter with his part-time job as an activities director at New Horizons Adult Day Care in Pawtucket in addition to his responsibilities as owner of The United Community Martial Arts Institute of RI, formerly known as Team United in Providence. The gym recently became a non-profit this past summer. Through various fundraising efforts, Evans and his team have distributed $5,000 worth of academic scholarships to area teens over the past year.
Winning a city council seat would allow Evans to give back at an even greater capacity. Why him? The way he sees it, there’s no one else more qualified to act and react on behalf of the citizens of Central Falls. The Evans family has been a staple in the community for decades. Thomas’ father served as the president of the city’s Little League chapter and the younger Evans starred on the diamond for Central Falls High School, earning All-State honors. His passion for restoring youth baseball in the city – it’s been dormant for nearly a decade – stems from the lessons he learned through athletics, both on the diamond and in the dojo.
“It’s something the kids deserve and there’s a demand for it. The kids are out there every day asking for it,” Evans said.
“That’s why I am bringing it back. Baseball allows kids to see multiple cultures and play in different environments. There are a lot of lessons to be learned on the baseball diamond and a lot of it isn’t baseball. And I always say baseball and martial arts are directly correlated. It takes discipline, it takes hard work, it takes commitment and it takes the understanding of how to lose. That’s really important. If we can teach our kids how to overcome a loss and get better for it, that’s how we build better citizens.”
Evans’ platform extends beyond athletics. He’d also like to launch a plan to implement public WiFi in Central Falls and work toward luring a major manufacture to invest in one of the many empty, vacated warehouses spread throughout the city, all of which would help create jobs and stimulate the economy. The time is now, Evans says, and he feels he’s more invested than most candidates based on his commitment to rebuilding the city.
“I have nothing to prove. I have no agenda here. Running for office would put me in a great position to further give back to my community,” Evans said. “I feel like with my age and experience, I can make a difference. I’ve experienced the world. I’ve owned a business for 10 years outside of the city. I’ve experienced a lot through fighting and attending college and working at multiple jobs.”
As for fighting, this may not be his last dance inside the cage. Evans won’t rule anything out. In 2018, he fought twice for Lion Fight Promotions, a Muay Thai organization based out of Nevada, and won both fights, so he hasn’t been entirely inactive over the last seven years. Later that year, he ran the New York City Marathon, which arguably took a greater toll on his body than fighting. He wanted to make his MMA comeback in 2019, but his body wouldn’t allow it. What happens behind January 24 remains to be seen, but you can guarantee Evans won’t ever quit fighting in some way, shape or form.
“I’m done saying it’s my last fight. I’ve retired more than Michael Jordan,” he said. “If it is, then it’s been amazing. I’ve never won at Twin River Casino in three fights and I’ve never won in the CES MMA cage. This is the monkey I want to get off my back. I felt this was the right time. I’m in great shape and I’m working hard, so here we go.”