Michael “Chase” Corley Chasing Muay Thai
By Mike LNg
Michael “Chase” Corley is a man of sparing words but has been one of the busiest people in Muay Thai from the USA and internationally. Michael and I have been in touch for literally years and I had always been chasing him for an interview opportunity. From those early days of contact Michael has fought repeatedly in Thailand including Lumpinee Stadium, on television under the Muay Thai Challenger tournament show, and against fellow American Nak Muay Ky Hollenbeck
under the Glory World Series banner. Now settling into his role as coach and teacher Michael is focused on developing the next generation of Muay Thai in Houston, Texas. Michael’s relative business in Muay Thai has been with relatively little fanfare for glory seeking among the media(such as it is) and accolades. Michael has generously granted me some of his time to answer my questions and add insight into one of the busiest men in the American Muay Thai world.
Starting with the obvious question: how does a person from Spring, Texas hear about and begin in Muay Thai?
I got started doing amateur Boxing in my junior year in high school. I was hooked the first day. After that first workout I told my basketball and baseball coaches I was going into boxing and that was that. I used to drive 45 minutes across town everyday after school.
I met Yves Edwards at a golden gloves tournament and invited me out to his gym which was only 10 minutes from my house. He introduced me to MMA and I took a liking to Muay Thai. Knowing that, he recommended I see Saekson Janjira. So I would drive up to Dallas and train and participate in smoker events.
Having trained both in the USA and under one of the most acclaimed Muay Thai camps in the world, Fairtex what to you is the biggest difference in the styles of training?
It’s the national sport there. You got trainers that eat, sleep, Muay Thai’d it their whole life since they were able to walk. You got the local Thai fighters that have hundreds of fights. If your around that everyday you are going to get better and get better fast. I got tossed around in the clinch by 14 yr olds when I first got there.
You’ve been a part of some of very big and high profile Muay Thai events internationally. What was the most exciting international event you were a part of and why?
When I was in Thailand probably it was the Toyota Cup. It’s a big money tournament and is broadcast all over Thailand. It was exciting because they get all 8 fighters in the ring and draw out of a hat for who you fight. That will get your nerves going. It could be Aikpracha Meenayotin or some guy from Australia you’ve never seen before. All the fights are done in one day too and hat’s pretty exciting to me. I wish there would be more one day tournaments like that.
When you were a part of Muay Thai Challenger how did you feel about being scrutinized basically 24 hours a day?
I fought Colossa the first episode so I wasn’t there long enough to answer that haha! It was pretty funny seeing other fighters getting mad at the producers and staff. Me and a couple other guys were real chill and just sat back a lot and laughed. I would always have to redo interviews because I’m not really controversial, and they would want me to comment on fighters etc…
What was the most rewarding part of being a cast member and fighter on Muay Thai Challenger?
It opened a lot of doors for big fights. I also got to see and train alongside some of the best in the world. All of the guys on the show were good people and I still talk with a lot of them today.
Another thing that was rewarding was something personal and that was going back to the finale and fighting Colossa again. It never aired, but I came back and gave him a much better fight than the first one I did in the first episode. Most from the show didn’t want to fight him at the finale. I flew myself out there just to show that I am better than what I showed in the first episode. I lost but it was rewarding personally.
After fighting many full rules Muay Thai fights was it difficult adjusting to modified rules in Glory World Series?
Not really. I got caught. Wish it wasn’t so early, I think it could have been an exciting fight.That was just the worst fight of my life. I think I landed a jab and a low kick haha. I tried some new diet for my cut and I was weak. You’ve seen the video I’m pale and sick looking haha.
I take nothing away from Ky Hollenbeck. He’s my friend and I got nothing but respect for him. He’s a multiple time world champion and a hard hitter. He hit me hard right on the temple and it was goodnight Irene. I hope he does well in the next round!
Do you prefer the tournament format or a single fight?
I like the tournament. Ive done 6 tournaments over my career in Muay Thai, that’s part of the reason I got up to 28 fights in 3 years. Two one day tournaments and 4 over multiple dates. I just have a mindset at one day tournaments where I am NOT losing my first fight in this thing! I won a World Muaythai Council (WMC) Super 8 first fight by KO and got a KO win in my first fight of the Toyota Cup, too. The second round matches…not so good.
What so far has been your most rewarding fight experience?
It would actually be from a loss. When I fought at Lumpinee. The Thai I fought had a lot more experience and opened up two nasty cuts on my head and he tee’d off on my lead leg. It was the most grueling and hard fight I ever had. It went all 5 rounds. I was hurting so bad after the fight, but had the biggest smile at the same time.
You’ve been a part of many organizational aspects of Muay Thai including running a branch camp for Fairtex in Thailand. What do you think is the most important thing for traveling Muay Thai students to know about training in Thailand?
Just cause you fought a fisherman or a tuk tuk driver you are not the “man”, a “Kru”, “Ajarn” or an expert in Muay Thai haha.
In all seriousness, just respect the culture. I’ve been blessed to have traveled across the world and you have to respect the ways of the land you’re visiting. Every place is different, so do a little research on customs, culture etc…
How much of a culture shock did you experience training in Thailand?
Not much. The only culture shock is the falang price on things! Thailand, as a lot of South East Asian countries have a 2 price system. Locals price and tourist price. Even though I was living there and had Thai ID I still got the tourist price! It gets to be expensive when your living there and not on vacation.
You’ve also been involved in the International Federation for Muay Thai Amateur’s efforts in the United States. How do you feel about the United States’ involvement and development within IFMA?
We have the fighters. We just don’t field our team with its full potential. Muay Thai is growing everywhere. There is no reason why our USA team shouldn’t fill every weight class male and female for the IFMA tournament. We don’t have government backing like a lot of the top countries at the tournament, so the USA fighters have to come up with a means to fund their trip. That also keeps are numbers low, too.
What things would you like to see changed or improved upon in that program?
Within 3 years we should have qualifying tournaments for spots on the team. Until then, have a board of respected coaches, promoters, and media help select the team until we are able to hold qualifiers. We need to give ample time to coaches and athletes to prepare themselves physically and financially for the tournament. Lastly, we need people at the top live Muay Thai. Someone who truly loves this art and wants to grow.
How do you feel about International Federation of Muay Thai Amateur (IFMA )including so many professional high level athletes?
It’s the best tournament in the world period. There are so many high level athletes that you’ve heard of and never heard of. Including Artem Levin, Miriam Nakamoto, Kem Sitsongpeenong, etc…Countries like Belarus, Russia, Ukraine, and of course Thailand. These countries bring their country’s best.
Now that you are focusing less on fighting in Muay Thai and more on educating and training in Muay Thai you have relocated to Houston, Texas to teach. Is it true there is very little Muay Thai there?
It’s the 4th largest city in the USA and there is only one gym that teaches just Muay Thai. Most of the gyms here are MMA. There are some credible instructors here but they teach at MMA schools.We do have a lot of quality boxing gyms here though.
What sort of challenges do you have teaching Muay Thai in a place where Muay Thai is less known?
It’s challenging just driving the point that Muay Thai is it’s own thing. Also, trying to tell the 80% that come into the MMA gym that I have no intention of doing MMA. I fight Muay Thai, and Muay Thai is it’s own sport and art. People think its just a piece to MMA.
You also successfully promoted a fight card featuring Muay Thai. What things did you do to ensure your event’s success?
I had a seminar with Kru Bob Perez, Cyrus Washington, and myself for like 10 bucks! We just wanted to raise awareness of Muay Thai in general and promote the event. Every year I bring in top guys to keep Muay Thai fresh in peoples minds here in Houston. Cyrus has been in a couple times, Kevin Ross, and I hope to bring out more.
I also did the matchmaking for the event and really took my time with it alongside Collin Cantrell. I knew that this card was a BIG deal. If it flopped or the fights were bad Muay Thai competition in Houston would be extinct. I got some good guys and gals for the card and they all performed well!
Another problem was that the state used to make the amateur fighters wear shin pads and elbow pads. Legacy Fighting Championship puts on top level events at nice venues. I knew that if we put a bunch of padded fighters in the Houston Arena Theatre the crowd would lose it. So before we got together we made sure no shin pads! We ended up doing full rules for the amateurs. Elbows, Knees, and no pads.
How important is it for success in those events to grow Muay Thai?
Huge! Thank you to Mick Maynard, the founder of Legacy for taking a chance. If this show flopped Muay Thai would be done here in Houston. It was a great show and the fans loved it.We are hoping to do another one early 2013.
What sort of difficulties do you face developing Muay Thai in the USA because Muay Thai is largely a bi-coastal phenomenon in the USA?
Here in Houston finding fighters that do just Muay Thai. A lot of the fighters also do MMA so that can mess with scheduling of events. There just needs to be an outlet for people that want to do just Muay Thai, and that’s what I’m trying to build here in Houston.
Overall in the USA, fighters just need to realize that this is a passion sport. 98% of the fighters in USA Muay Thai have some other sort of income whether it be teaching or something totally unrelated. The pay isn’t good and the pain is great.
Now that you are winding down fighting in Muay Thai what led you to the decision to move away from fighting in Muay Thai?
Ever since I moved back to Houston I haven’t won in Muay Thai. Granted my last few fights have been against world champs. Vuyisle Colossa 2 times, Marco Pique, and Ky Hollenbeck. I just know that I was a much better Muay Thai fighter when I was living it in Thailand. Since I’ve been back I have to hunt down training partners, drive a long way to get a proper pad holder etc…where as in Thailand it was in my backyard. As long as I am in Houston it will tough for me to hang with the top dogs.
Even though you are now less active in Muay Thai you are not done with combat sports altogether and will now be fighting professionally in boxing. What led you to that decision?
I haven’t fought in the USA since 2008. I have been fighting in other peoples’ places for 4 years. I’ve been booed in 8 countries. I want to have the crowd on my side for once. I started with boxing here in Houston and that’s the way I want to leave it. I don’t have world class Muay Thai training camp or a gym full of Muay Thai training partners, but I do in Boxing so I am going to take advantage.
I got a great trainer and facility here at Lou Savarese’s Gym in Houston, and I’m going to give it my all.
Will you ever fight in Muay Thai again?
I am sure I will…I’m only 27 (turn 28 in Dec.) If I get the opportunity for a solid camp I’m sure Ill give it a go again. It’s just hard being back in Houston. I say that…but if a promoter threw a big name at me I’d probably jump on it.
What sort of legacy would you like to build in Muay Thai and in the United States?
Everybody can’t be a champion in this game or everybody would do it. I just want to be known as a guy that didn’t back down from a fight. Short notice and always in someone’s backyard was my M.O.
My new thing is to try and grow Muay Thai in the USA. I want to give back by helping with the USA IFMA Teams, continue helping Legacy FC put Muay Thai shows in Houston, seminars, etc…whatever I can to help.
Much thanks goes to Michael “Chase” Corley for granting this interview! Check out Chase’s highlight reel below!