By Mike LNg
Michael “Chase” Corley has been long plying his craft as an American Nak Muay. From his earliest days making the long journey to Dallas to train with well known and respected trainer Saeksan and fighting wherever possible to fighting internationally for I-1 against top level Thaiboxers Michael has committed much of his adult life to Muay Thai. Along the way he worked and trained in Fairtex’s Bangplee, Thailand facility.
While building a 3-0 pro record in boxing Michael Corley has always pursued Muay Thai and continues to as part of the Thai Fight inaugural tournament at 72kg and Legacy Kickboxing in Jan 2015. Much thanks to Michael for granting the interview.
Since you’ve been back in the USA you’ve worked with Lou Savarese former WBO Intercontinental heavyweight boxing champion. How’s that experience been?
Its been awesome. When I moved back to the USA and still to this today I cant land US Muay Thai fights so I thought why not go back to Boxing? A friend put me in touch with Lou and I fought for his promotion 3 times. His trainer Bobby Benton trained me through those fights and was a great experience. Lou promotes boxing once a month in Houston, and his shows are top quality, so I got to take a lot of notes and learn the ins and outs of promoting.
Did you enjoy boxing as a professional fighter?
Yes! I started in boxing and had 11 amateur matches and it was a lot of fun going back to it. The best part of the pro boxing experience was fighting in the USA for once. Not only that but in Houston.
After working with Lou you also opened up your own Thaiboxing gym http://www.houstonmuaythai.com. What encouraged you to do this?
I had 3 goals when I went to Muay Thai full time after college. 1. Fight at the highest level around the world 2. Open my own Muay Thai Gym 3. Promote/Grow Muay Thai Shows
I started teaching a few classes and training clients at his gym on top of working a little under his promotion over the last 2-3 years. He knew I was looking all over Houston for a place to open up a Muay Thai gym and Lou suggested I open up in his building where the weight and fitness center was. The spot is perfect. It’s in downtown Houston right across from the Toyota Center and we have been open 2 months. I’m excited for the new gym.
For people that don’t know. Can you tell them how you came to Thailand to further your Muay Thai training?
It started when I fought at IFMA in 2008 at B class and saw the A class fighters there and knew I wasn’t even close to that level yet. Right after the tournament I went to Thailand for a month to train. I came back and trained and fought a few fights. I had my last amateur fight in Canada and then went back to Thailand in 2009 for the IFMA and fought A class. It was there that I found out that the manager position of Fairtex Bangplee was going to be open so I jumped on the opportunity. In Bangplee I worked, trained, and fought there for around a 1.5 years and then left the position at the camp but stayed a few more months in Thailand.
That’s my history of training in Muay Thai in Thailand. Nowadays I try to drop into Thailand around 1.5-2 weeks before fights to get my mind right on the fight. If you’ve trained hard at a real camp then there is no explanation. In Thailand you Eat, Sleep, Train Repeat 2X a day. It gets you prepared for fights. That’s what I did last year for the I-1 tournament in Hong Kong, and that’s what I am doing for Thai Fight this year. I wish it could be longer but opening the gym and doing promotions is pretty time consuming.
Teaching in the USA now do you focus on teaching some of the more traditional aspects of Muay Thai?
Yes and No. My gym is traditional in so far as the respect, the techniques, and learning Wai Kru. Muay Thai in the USA is not Muay Thai in Thailand sadly. The scoring is well…you know pretty off. We have boxing judges and karate judges scoring Muay Thai. So kicks, elbows, clinch, are all scored on the same level as punches most of the places my students have fought. That said, that changes a bit of the fight strategy in my opinion. We may throw the techniques in a way that aren’t so traditional as part of the strategy if that makes sense. For example a 3-4 punches to a kick with more rhythm.
There seem to be more professional Muay Thai and kickboxing promotions emerging more and more often in the USA. And their success means more opportunities for fighters. What do these new promotions need to do to grow in the USA?
They should start small and work up. Every promotion that empties their own wallets on the first few shows will never make it. Big names don’t always mean big ticket sales, Pay per View (PPV) buys, or online views. States that allow Pro-Amateur cards are great because you can load the ammy card with local ticket sellers and that helps the pro portion which usually has out of towners vs local or regional known pros.
Since Muay Thai seems largely focused on opposite coasts what needs to be done most to develop both fighters and the sport else where in the USA?
I’d like to see regional tournaments. Tournaments that lead to something bigger like the IFMA USA Team. All the regions qualifiers would then go on to the national tournament. The last few years IFMA teams have been put together with no qualifiers and have had small numbers on the team. Make people earn their spot on the team. Make it prestigious to win those tournaments as an amateur. Make the USA Team solid and go over to World Games and win. If you have a good amateur circuit you will have a good pro circuit in my opinion.
What would you regard as the most valuable learning experience you’ve had thus far as a fighter?
As a fighter, being humble and always learning. Seek the out the best: the best coaching, best sparring, and best gym for YOU. Don’t sit at your gym and pound the heavy bag, watch youtube videos and think you got Muay Thai. Go get it from the best.
Out of the ring too you’ve been working as an official and resource for USA Muay Thai. Do you enjoy officiating and educating people about Muay Thai scoring?
I enjoy refereeing and officiating fights. I feel with my experience as a fighter I can see better when a fighter is hurt or not hurt in situations. And I know when fouls or spills are about to happen and try to stop them. I have refereed at the TBA Nationals, StriKing Nationals, and other regional fight shows.
As far as judging well…that’s tough. I like to do it but not every judge is on the same page as I said earlier. We definitely need some reforming of Muay Thai judging qualifications in USA. We need to have some courses or something that commissions are required to take in order to judge.
After 29 professional fights in Muay Thai what motivates you for new fights?
I’ve fought a lot of champions in those 29, and that’s what motivates me continue. I want to always fight the best. I want to keep learning and getting better until my body says “no”. I have Thai Fight this year, I-1 last year, Legacy next year.
How did the opportunity to fight in Legacy kickboxing come together?
I’ve known Mick Maynard for a long time. He’s been training in Muay Thai for a loooong time, too. He trains at Houston Muay Thai. He told me he had plans for a Legacy Kickboxing Promotion and that the first show will be in Houston! I was ecstatic. I told him I wanted on!
Your first fight in Legacy Kickboxing will be against Marco Pique. What can we look forward to in this rematch?
Revenge. Ha No, Marco and I are friends and we were cast mates on the Challenger Reality Series. I fought him on Christmas in his home country of Suriname in 2011. I fought pretty good but a kick broke my ulna (arm) and after that the fight went down hill and he won decisively. Marco is an exciting fighter and I always liked his style. I wanted to rematch him this time in my hometown and really give a good fight and get the “W” this time. I know that Marco and I are going to have the Houston crowd on their feet
As an already very decorated fighter in Muay Thai what sort of things would you like your legacy to remind people of?
I want my legacy to remind them that a guy from Spring, TX fought the best around the world in Muay Thai. I want to be known as a guy who tries to promote the sport whether it be hosting smokers, refereeing tournaments, teaching seminars, promoting shows, and whatever I can do to promote the sport.
What sort of things can we look forward to in your future and do you have any final words for your fans and supporters?
I have the Thai Fight Royal Tournament in October, November, and December. Then I have Legacy Kickboxing in January versus Marco Pique. I may have another boxing fight or two. And since opening the gym I really want to pass Muay Thai on to my fighters. I get better fulfillment seeing them grow and win then I do in my own fights.
A few year from now I want to be coaching against my friends at tournaments you know? I want to see Kevin Ross and Chaz Hollenbeck’s fighters Vs my fighters. My fighters vs Cyrus Washington’s fighters. I think that will be cool to see.
Thank you to my Fam, Lou Savarese for opening a bunch of doors for me, Bobby Benton, my gym partner Kru Bob Perez (Remember that name), Saekson Janjira, and all those that continue to support my fighting, promoting etc. and lastly all my students at Houston Muay Thai!