Muhsin Corbbrey (13-3) is a bit of a renaissance man. He has a deep and reflective side to him that is refreshing to see among competitors in combat sports. In addition to developing a reputation as a dangerous MMA lightweight fighter, Muhsin has moonlighted in the worlds of professional boxing (where he holds a record of 6-2-1) and professional Muay Thai kickboxing (where he holds a record of 9-1). Having lived for many years in Hilton Head, South Carolina, Muhsin brings a variety of skills to the table including great head movement, quick hands and above average athleticism. He burst into the consciousness of the MMA community on a national level when he faced Nick Diaz in Hawaii last June. As everyone knows, Diaz is an extremely formidable opponent and held a distinct size advantage over Muhsin. Although losing that fight late in the final round, Mushin won over some fans that night with the skill and heart that he displayed against Diaz. MMAForReal recently caught up with Muhsin to find out more about this talented lightweight fighter's past and what might be in store for his future.
Rich Wyatt: Muhsin, tell us a little about your background and how you got into MMA.
Muhsin Corbbrey: Well, I grew up in inner-city Tulsa, OK and then later also lived part of the early years of my life in California. My dad signed me up to train in recreation center boxing and Tae Kwon Do. My dad wanted me to be well-rounded and to be able to take care of myself. Part of that included learning to use my hands and feet to defend myself. I did the rec. center programs and fell in love with martial arts really early. I've had a life-long desire to master the martial arts ever since then.
Rich Wyatt: I've heard people say that you're a pretty deep, reflective guy. That flies in the face of the stereotype that many folks have about the competitors in MMA. What are some of your interests outside of combat sports?
Muhsin Corbbrey: There's a perception that we're wannabe rock stars or something. There might be a segment of fighters that are, but I think that most realize that we have a duty to conduct ourselves as professionals. I've always felt that it's important to help other people and continue to grow as a human being. I've been blessed to get a different perspective on life and I want to share that with other people. Right now, I've enjoyed building up my business and helping others get to a better position in life. One of my mentors and one of the guys I look up to the most is Master Lloyd Irvin. He came from humble beginnings to build his business up and watching him has inspired me. That's been one of my driving forces, to not only accomplish my goals in MMA, but also in all aspects of life. I've been to a lot of camps, some of the best ones in the country, and there is no one out there that has a grappling system like Lloyd Irvin. He's a great model for success.
Rich Wyatt: I have heard that you tried out for this season (Season 9) of The Ultimate Fighter: USA vs. UK. What was that experience like?
Muhsin Corbbrey: I've tried out twice now for The Ultimate Fighter. Once for season 5 and most recently for the current season. What I've come to realize is that they are definitely looking for characters. Anyone who was present at the tryouts for this season can tell you, man. When we were auditioning, I submitted my guy 3 times in the minute and a half that I had to show my abilities. Please understand that I don't say this to brag, but no fighter there had anywhere near the striking skills I had. Joe Silva is a great guy and I've continued to talk with him about the possibility of fighting with the WEC or UFC. The thing is that it's not just about impressing him. In addition to him, you have to get past the guys from SPIKE TV and let's just say that I don't think I fit the mold of what they're looking for. Another issue that probably contributed to my not getting selected was that I still had some uncertainty with my EliteXC contract hanging over my head. Overall, it was a good experience and if they offer tryouts for 155 pounders again I'll definitely be there. I think a lot of the time they use their selections as an opportunity to go for the guys that will make the best television.
Rich Wyatt: You put yourself on the MMA map with your fight last June on the Elite XC event against Nick Diaz. What was it like fighting Nick and what were your impressions of Elite XC as a promotion?
Muhsin Corbbrey: You know, Elite XC had some good guys on their roster but just didn't manage everything correctly. The fight with Diaz was a great experience. An hour before the weigh-ins, though, they told me Nick could not make weight. I said "Well, he has to." They informed me that he's not going to be able to make it and so then I had the option to take the fight at a catch weight or not. I had sponsors backing me and I had spent weeks in Thailand training for this fight. I decided to go ahead and take the fight at welterweight, although I'm a small lightweight. I think he was around 190 pounds at fight time and I was about 165. Some websites had me winning the first 2 rounds, but I think his size wore on me. It was a great experience for me, though. I had two previous wins with Elite XC. I won an easy decision against Lee Gibson, then got a little more praise for my next win against Bobby McMaster. I got more respect in that Diaz loss, though, than in all of my wins combined. I wouldn't trade it for the world. I think it was a good fight for me and I learned a lot about myself.
Rich Wyatt: You definitely deserve the respect you earned from that match. You showed lots of heart against a larger opponent. Like some other MMA fighters, you have also competed in boxing for many years at both the amateur and professional levels. What do you like best about competing in the sport of boxing and have the skills that you've developed helped translate into your MMA game?
Muhsin Corbbrey: I actually compete as a professional in three sports: boxing, Muay Thai and MMA. In order to call yourself a true mixed martial artist I've always felt that you have to be proficient in several different disciplines. You can't be a grappler and just call yourself a striker because someone occasionally holds pads for you to hit. I'm not scared to stand with anyone in the game. Anyone. My experience in each sport has helped raise my confidence when I compete in the others. My first fight as a boxer was against a Jamaican Olympic alternate. It was ruled a draw because he was the hometown fighter, but there I was outclassing a guys that had way more amateur experience than I had. Boxing has given me the confidence to stand with anyone in an MMA fight. I love each of the three sports equally. My athletic goals are to have a boxing title, a Thailand stadium championship and a MMA title. I have a trip planned later this year to Thailand to try to make some headway toward a Thai boxing championship.
Rich Wyatt: Despite having a solid boxing skillset, most of your wins have come by way of submission. Do you feel that your jiu-jitsu game is underrated?
Muhsin Corbbrey: I definitely think that area of my game is underrated because people always label me as a striker. I think I only have 3 KO's on my MMA record. In MMA, when you knock someone down you can jump right on them and finish it. A lot of times in the process of following people to the ground I've been able to put them away by submission. People don't always talk about my grappling ability, but l've been grappling for a long time. I've competed in NAGA and other grappling tournaments and done well. I like that people underestimate that aspect of my game. I want them to do that so that I can showcase my other skills.
Rich Wyatt: Tell me a little bit about where you currently train in Hilton Head. Who are some of the folks that you spar with?
Muhsin Corbbrey: We've actually moved our gym to Savannah, GA. We're still in the low country but this is a better market with the military bases being close by. We've got a 2 time world boxing champion in Norman Jones. He's got over 50 pro boxing matches. He's just transitioned into MMA and won his first fight with a body shot. Two boxing coaches that we have are Frank Bell and John Blanken, who are helping mold new boxing talent for us. I train with them daily. We've got a great MMA program. Steven Bass (8-0) is a guy that started with me and he is taking the Southeast by storm. He's a 1-0 pro boxer as well as being undefeated as a MMA fighter. He's 145 pounds, but he's stronger than any 170 pounder I've ever rolled with. We've got two wrestlers from California that are really sharp on the ground. We've always got great talent to work with. I also frequently travel up to the DC area to train with Master Irvin. I'm blessed to have guys like Lloyd and Mike Fowler to train with there. Sometimes I get to train with Brandon Vera as well.
Rich Wyatt: It appears as though the state of South Carolina is voting to follow the lead of North Carolina and sanction the sport of MMA. What are your thoughts on the MMA scene in the Carolinas and are there any names that you'd care to mention of some up and coming fighters?
Muhsin Corbbrey: The Carolinas are great. I actually got a chance to compete on an ICF event on a military base in Beaufort recently. The state of South Carolina had not yet sanctioned the sport and got mad but they had no authority to stop the show since it was held on a military base. I fought in the main event and won the ICF title. The place was packed and the response was amazing. I think the Carolinas will really, really blow up when all is said and done. I know our gym will be doing shows once everything is sanctioned in South Carolina. There are already fighters from the Carolinas that have hit the big time. Spencer Fisher is a fantastic fighter and there are many others that have tons of talent.
Rich Wyatt: When do you ideally see yourself in action again? Do you have plans for any upcoming fights?
Muhsin Corbbrey: We're currently talking with the guys at UFC. No disrespect to any of the lightweights in the WEC, but I'd rather not start with there. I'd rather go straight to the UFC, whether through the Ultimate Fighter or straight to the big show. I want to fight the best guys in the world. That's something I'm working on now. I'm hoping that by September or October we'll be on the big stage. We turned down a fight with Strikeforce just so that we can try to get a UFC deal done. I'll probably take a stay-busy fight here locally in Savannah this summer to keep my MMA skills sharp.
Rich Wyatt: Who do you like in the upcoming UFC lightweight title fight? Penn or Florian?
Muhsin Corbbrey: It really depends on who wants it more. One thing I can say about Kenny is that he realizes that thoughts make actions happen. He believes in himself. Athletically there are better guys, but he has put the work in and has shown that he believes in himself. He can win the fight. If it ends up a grappling match, you know, B.J. is B.J. He would win that. Sometimes B.J. doesn't seem like he wants to be there. It depends on which B.J. shows up. I think that this has the potential to be a really good fight. Penn has tremendous talent and can beat any lightweight in the world when he's motivated, but Lloyd Irvin has a saying posted to the wall of his gym that says "Hard Work Beats Talent Whenever Talent Refuses to Work Hard." B.J. has all the talent in the world but it will depend on which Penn shows up.
Rich Wyatt: Any parting thoughts or anyone that you'd like to thank?
Muhsin Corbbrey: I'd like to thank Manu Ntoh, he's brought me along and made me the Thai fighter that I am. Without Lloyd Irvin I would be nobody in MMA. He's the backbone of what we do. His ability to gameplan and come up with effective strategy has helped make me a better fighter. Coaches Bell and Blanken continue to help keep my boxing skills sharp. I wouldn't be able to keep my hands and head movement sharp without them. I'd like to thank my sponsors: Johnson Construction, AttackMode Fight Gear and Advantage Heating and Air. Those guys help me get to camps and have continued to support me. I'd also like to say thanks to the fans. Keep watching and supporting me because I'm going to offer up some great fights in the coming year. I make it a point to try and be exciting and display great technique. I want to be the Pernell Whitaker of MMA. My gym, Champions Training Center, is home of some of the best young fighters in the Southeast so be on the lookout for us. Thanks also to MMAForReal for talking with me.
MMAForReal.com thanks Muhsin Corbbrey for taking the time to speak with us and we wish him the best in his upcoming fights.