It’s Like the Jab, Cross Combo of Career Choices
In the United States, the first thing that comes to mind when you think of combat sports is Mixed Martial Arts, or more commonly, UFC. Here in MMA Country, a Muay Thai-exclusive gym with pure Muay Thai fighters is rare—especially where I live, in the south.
Here in Tennessee, when I mention Muay Thai—or, the many ways southerners say it, Moo Thai, Muy Thai, My Ty, Moo Tay—people tend to think I am talking about the drink. I’ve even had Muay Thai mistaken for some style of Yoga.
When it comes to a Muay Thai-exclusive gym, the sport is advertised and disciplined as such. Unlike a MMA gym that offers Muay Thai as one of the many arts. To have a pure Muay Thai gym in the wrong part of the States is a challenge—even though the sport is growing every the day. Practicing Muay Thai on top of that is even more of a challenge.
Can you imagine what it’s like being both—owning a Muay Thai gym and be a Muay Thai fighter at the same time in the States?
Well, here you have it: the Top 5 coaches that run their own gyms and compete Muay Thai in America. (Note: athletes aren’t listed in any particular order.)
Kate “Meatball” Allen of 8 Limbs Muay Thai Academy in Philadelphia, PA
Kate has been a Muay Thai practitioner since 2010 and has also trained under the most accomplished Thai coaches in the world, including Rami Ibrahim, Damien Trainor and Rigel Balsamico.
While still an amateur fighter, Kate won the 2016 TBA Championship in the A class division. Kate was cornered by Rami himself during her journey at the tournament and brought home the gold!
She also has been practicing dentistry since 1999 to keep the bills paid. So she can knock your teeth and then fix them back up!
Justin “The Purple People Eater” Greskiewicz of Stay Fly Muay Thai in Philadelphia, PA
Justin G is a high ranked professional and well known American Muay Thai fighter. As a veteran with over 65 fights—25 amateur and 40 professional—Justin has gone up against top fighters like Kevin Ross, Mailapet Sasiprapa, Matt Embree, Shane Campbell… the list goes on!
He is one of the few East Coast fighters to have earned the WBC belt. He has competed on top shows such as Lion Fight and K1.
I’ve never had the chance to meet Justin personally but he did ref one of my fights at the WKA tournament in 2014. You can see the footage if you search my name on YouTube. (Fun Fact.)
Michael “Chase” Corley of Houston Muay Thai in Houston, TX
Probably the most decorated athlete on this list. Corely’s Houston Muay Thai will be 2 years old in August.
He has fought in 9 different countries and has also fought in the very first Glory Kickboxing show. He has been on Thai Fight, WMC I-1 Grand Prix, Toyoa Cup Muay Thai Marathon in which he and Kevin Ross were the only Americans to have won it. Finally, he has also fought at the old Lumpinee Stadium.
Being up against some of the toughest fighters in the world like Antoine Pinto and Marco Pique, Michael would suggest that if you want to be a great fighter then focus on that—if you want to be a great coach then focus on that.
Michael has chosen to train fighters from now on, as he has been retired since 2015. He is now currently responsible for developing 10 national amateur champions.
Eddie Martinez of Sitan Gym Connecticut in Norwalk, CT
Eddie Martinez is a professional fighter and personal trainer from Venezuela. He has over 24 years of martial arts experience while holding up to 6 Championship titles—including a professional boxing title he won in Dubai.
Sitan Gym Connecticut is a branch of the main location in Queens, NY, which is owned by Coach Aziz Nabih. When Eddie flies to New York to be trained. He has fought in over 45 fights through the US and globally including Thailand, Dubai and Italy. Martinez has just competed on the most recent show of Lion Fight Promotions in which he grabbed a W over Nick Chasteen via split decision. It was a terrific fight from both competitors.
And last but not least.
Rami “The Son of Palestine” Ibrahim of Rami Elite in Philadelphia, PA
Rami Ibrahim is the longest active Muay Thai fighter in North American history. He is the top ranked pro fighter in the US and 10th in the world while holding ten professional title belts and has defended the WKA North American title belt a total of four times! He has competed in martial arts since 1995 and knows several disciplines such as Tae Kwon Do, Freestyle Karate, Wrestling and Boxing.
As the winner of over 200 Karate championships, Rami is the first ever Palestinian to the WBC #1 ranked fighter in the US! I’ve met Rami on several occasions at multiple tournaments as an amateur and he is always pushing out champion after champion.
Rami is currently preparing for his next fight July 30th in which he will defend one of his titles. I follow Rami’s career through Facebook, and he is traditionally known for running his gym business hours during the day and then staying until MIDNIGHT to train and prepare for his fights. While most of are sleeping, Rami is still training!
Rami will also be hosting the next Nak Muay Nation Training Camp in January, so if you want to train with a great coach AND fighter, this will be a great opportunity!
These amazing athletes and business wo/men are taking on the double threat. Can you imagine the pressure of keeping the gym lights open at the same time as representing your own product in the ring? The pressure of balancing bills and training for competition? Some people will find it impossible, but these people have accepted the challenge.
These pioneers for Muay Thai deserve the greatest recognition and appreciation. They are keeping the sport alive both inside and outside the ring. Keep going strong and keep fighting both of the good fights!
There are a lot of fighters out there who also own gyms, who do YOU think deserves a shout out? Comment below because someone else might think that person is worth recognizing too!
NOTE: All images are located at Google Images.
- DJ Miller is a naky muay from Nashville, TN. He began his Muay Thai training in 2008 and accumulated more than 30 amateur fights before turning pro. "Martial arts is in my blood," says Miller. "My father is a third degree black belt in Taekwondo.., I love the experiences that Muay Thai has given me and I love sharing my thoughts what's going on in the Muay Thai world with everyone."