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Mountain View's Delton Kaufmann thriving on mat, inside ring

Jan. 15—Delton Kaufmann prides himself on being a competitor.

Every sport he played growing up he aimed to be the best. He exudes confidence but knows how to back it up. As a youngster he played football and trained in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. He also took up wrestling.

He eventually moved on to Mixed Martial Arts, a sport that has become wildly popular and draws millions of viewers for pay-per-views. Just like everything else he did, Delton wanted to succeed. He fought for the first time at 11 years old and won.

He's since become one of the top fighters in his weight class and has backed up his nickname in the process, the "Thaiphoon."

"It's just something I picked up when I was little," Delton said. "My dad started calling me that because he had his own nicknames for my siblings and me. The first time we wrote it down when I was trying to get on the map, he said, 'Why don't we make the Tai part Thai because you're Thai.' We just rocked with it."

Delton's calm, cool and collected demeanor may not come as much of a surprise to those who know him. Without being aware of his background, some may look at him and think he's a normal 16-year-old.

But that perspective changes when he wrestles for Mountain View or enters the octagon for a fight.

He's 34-0 this season on the mat for Mountain View as a sophomore. Last year, he lost in the championship. He admits he didn't take wrestling as serious as he should have, which is why he was all in on the sport this season.

He aims to be "the guy" in the wrestling room. It's a stigma he's began to earn due to his talent on the mat and his status in MMA. But that also comes with the mindset that was instilled in him from a young age by his father, Justin.

Justin admits he was hard on Delton. He held him accountable and pushed him past his breaking point.

"My goal as a father is at 23, 24 or 25 years old, he looks at me and says, 'I appreciate the hell you put me through,'" said Justin, who owns a private gym with a ring for Delton and other fighters to train. "It's hard work. It's tough. I'm very proud and I know he's proud of his success. But that comes from pushing him when he was younger."

Just as much as Delton has confidence in himself, Justin is confident, too.

Delton has won multiple national titles in MMA over the course of his short career. He's also won two world titles, the most recent one back in summer 2022.

Last fall he won nationals again but declined to advance to the world stage this time around. Instead, he made a bombshell announcement that he wanted to fight adults. With a 6-foot-3 frame and maturity level well beyond his years, Delton held his own in his first adult fight. It took place up north against a 23-year-old last November. Special permission was needed, but in the end it didn't matter.

Delton won in the first round. But even then, he shrugged it off.

"It's just steppingstones, in all honesty," Delton said. "I feel accomplished with what I've done but I love to compete. I'm not really satisfied."

His ability to go from MMA to wrestling on a whim doesn't surprise any of his coaches. He's a natural athlete who worked hard for the stamina he has to compete in multiple sports.

But perhaps his most impressive trait is his loyalty. He's loyal to the Mountain View wrestling program and those who coach him. He's loyal to his teammates, too. That's why he allowed MMA, the sport that will undoubtedly be his future, to take a back seat.

Winning national and world titles have been some of his best accomplishments. But for some reason, winning a state title with Mountain View would have a different feeling. Perhaps it's the community aspect — his teammates, coaches, friends and family cheering him on.

Perhaps it's the love he's had for the school and program for some time.

"It's a hard feeling to explain," Delton said. "When you win in front of the big stages, it's satisfying. It's one of the most satisfying things. Even though world championships have bigger stages than high school wrestling, I'm still doing it for my team and I'm doing it because it's something I really want to do."

Delton plans to immediately jump back into MMA after the wrestling season concludes. Typically, that involves as many as eight weeks of training for a fight. But Delton, and Justin for that matter, feel he can be ready in as little as four weeks.

When asked why he feels he could be ready in a short amount of time, the confidence was present once again.

"How much training do I really need?" Delton said with a sly smile.

Delton's future is bright on the mat and in the ring. His dad envisions multiple titles in his future throughout the rest of his high school years.

But they're both aiming bigger. Delton wants to become a world-renowned fighter. Justin expects it.

"Delton is what I would call a 'game dog,'" Justin said. "I've been around this game for a long time. Delton is a mental, tough beast that can perform as good as anyone under the lights. I think he'll accomplish everything he wants to accomplish.

"Sky is the limit. He's not going to mouth off like Connor McGregor but he's going to be better."

Have an interesting story? Contact Zach Alvira at (480)898-5630 or zalvira@timespublications.com. Follow him on Twitter @ZachAlvira.