For a brief moment in time, Noah Thomas was one of the most infamous figures in mixed martial arts.
A rising Colorado lightweight prospect, he was one of 16 fighters participating in the fifth season of the Ultimate Fighting Championship's The Ultimate Fighter reality series. Upon losing his preliminary round fight to Manvel Gambaryan, Thomas proceeded to get into a drunken fight with fellow cast mate Marlon Sims, resulting in UFC President Dana White expelling both from the show.
With the initial request by Spike TV, the broadcasters of The Ultimate Fighter, to have a match between Thomas and Sims on the season's finale nixed by White, Thomas sought to redeem himself elsewhere, when injury struck.
In a short matter of time, he went from one of the most buzzed about fighters in the sport, to virtually disappearing from the MMA landscape for a year and a half.
Now, fully recovered from injury, Thomas seeks to step away from his past and forge a new path for himself in a new weight class and prove that he's more than a blip on the television landscape at this coming Friday, June 13's Ring of Fire event in Broomfield, Colo.
"It sucked, definitely," exclaimed Thomas of his experiences over the last year and a half. "Coming off The Ultimate Fighter and then I don't get a chance to redeem myself right off the bat, I get hurt.
"I was training for a fight right after 'T.U.F.' and I got hurt. I thought it wasn't anything bad at first, but then my knee kept going out, so I got an MRI done and it showed I had no ACL left. I had a lot of rehab, strength and conditioning, and just trying to get back into the game."
As Thomas explains, he virtually had to re-learn to walk again, let alone just regain his fighting skills.
"They took the patella (tendon) out of my left leg and put it in my right (leg)," he explained. "It's definitely learning how to walk again, use my guard again, how to box again.
"What really sucks is that I was getting to the point where I was really getting good with my stand up and jiu-jitsu, and then all that practice went out the window (when I got injured). I got it back pretty quickly, though, so I'm happy."
Rehab behind him, he is eager to not only return to action, but to put the ghosts of his past behind him in the minds of the MMA community.
"I was put in a bad place at that time, behind a rock and a hard place," commented Thomas. "I learned from that experience. It was a one time deal, it will never happen again, and I'm moving on with my career."
Concerning Sims, Thomas' impromptu backyard brawl opponent, he has no desire to interact with Sims either on a personal or professional level.
"I've totally moved past him," stated Thomas. "I'm going down to 145 (pounds) and he's 170 (pounds), so we're not even in the same weight class anymore.
"I haven't heard anything about him, and I really don't care anymore."
During his time off, Thomas has had the opportunity to add more finesse and technique to his fighting, especially in his jiu-jitsu. Even with his newfound prowess on the ground, however, he is quick to point out that people will still see what he was known for prior to injury, an aggressive, nasty, tough style of fighting.
"I am definitely bringing the technical stuff to the table, and I'm proving it every day and making a more solid game, but at the same time I still bring that roughness to the game," said Thomas. "If you match-up with me, you're definitely gonna know you're in a fight.
"I don't come to feel an opponent out, and see who has the better guard, takedown defense or stand up -- I'm coming in there to break your face and send you home to your girlfriend or wife for patching up."
At Ring of Fire, Thomas will be squaring off against a former high school wrestling teammate and rival in Brett Roller. According to Thomas, there was bad blood between the two of them back in the day and it continues in the present.
"He's a real confident guy, like I was, and confidence can come off as cockiness and arrogance," he said of Roller. "I saw the error in my ways, but I think he still needs to learn that his confidence and cockiness is going to get him into trouble.
"He's just a real arrogant and cocky kid. I didn't care for him very much back then, and I don't care for him much now. If you could fight one guy from high school -- this would be my guy -- I get to fight him and I'm pretty excited about it."
In a new weight class and having put his past firmly behind him, Thomas's career prospects are looking brighter than ever.
"There's some offers on the table that we're looking at," he admitted. "There's definitely some big organizations that have talked to us and we're looking at that direction for sure.
"We're in the 145 (pound) division now and we're looking to make our mark there."
Just when things were looking their darkest, Thomas faced down his demons and has come out the other end better than ever. With a promising future on the horizon, he looks to take that first step towards redemption at Friday night's Ring of Fire.
"I hope everybody comes out to check out Ring of Fire for my first fight back. Both me and (Roller) go one speed -- and that's forward and fast. It's definitely going to be worth coming out and watching. I'm looking for a first or second round stoppage, for sure."