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Bringing the MMA fight to Savannah

Muhsin Corbbrey looks to mix the martial arts, boxing and fitness with his gym, Champions Training Center.

Thanks to Muhsin Corbbrey, mixed martial arts is alive and kicking in Savannah.

His gym, Champions Training Center off Windsor Road, has been growing like a well-fertilized lawn after a summer rain.

Now, the 31-year-old world-class fighter is lining up Savannah’s first MMA card in nearly two years. Corbbrey says plans are in the works for an Aug. 22 fight night, possibly at Savannah State University’s Tiger Arena.

“This one is going to be our best one,” said Corbbrey, who expects to sprinkle pro and amateur bouts into the event.

It’s all part of Corbbrey’s dedication to a sport that has gone from a niche following to mainstream nationally.

He’s 13-3 in MMA competition and fought three times for Elite XC on Showtime before the organization folded.

Corbbrey continues his dreams of becoming a champion for one of the world’s top organizations, but he realized building a business here only helps.

He moved from Hilton Head to Savannah and opened a one-room gym off DeRenne Avenue. last year. His clientele quickly outgrew the establishment.

So in January, Corbbrey and his business partner Aurash Kheradmandi expanded the gym where Non-Stop Fitness once resided.

“Fighters are usually guys who are struggling, and you don’t find much of that on Hilton Head,” Corbbrey said. “We had good students from (the Hilton Head) area, but a lot of people were already coming from Savannah.”

Now they don’t have to travel. Corbbrey and a stable of trainers lead classes in muay thai, jiu jitsu, boxing, wrestling, yoga and fitness.

Personal training is available. A gym membership begins at $49.

Corbbrey said he has more than 100 members currently and, at the gym’s rate of growth, could push that number to 300 by the end of the year.

“We have classes for people who don’t want to fight, people just looking for a workout or we can be the pathway to become a fighter,” he said. “We’re trying to not take away from the guys who want this to be a fight gym, we have everything you need for this to be a fight gym, but we also have the environment where everyone is willing to help everyone… If you just want to come in and learn something cool, you can learn something cool.”

Missing MMA events

It’s been nearly two years since Savannah held a mixed martial arts event. Corbbrey headlined one of the shows and was scheduled to fight on two other occasions only to have his opponent bow out at the last moment.

The first show on May 5, 2007 drew 1,600 fans at the Savannah Armory. Six weeks later, despite a torrential rain an hour before fight time, 1,200 came out to the Armory for a second show.

On Sept. 29, 2007, 2,500 packed the Savannah Civic Center for a third show.

“We did all right, we made some money,” said Corbbrey, a co-partner in the promotions.

But national events had an indirect effect on the local MMA fight game. Elite XC, a competitor of Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), folded in part after main-event fighter Kimbo Slice was defeated in less than a minute by journeyman Seth Petruzelli on CBS television.

Yahoo! Sports reported that Petruzelli said he was offered a bonus to stand and trade punches with Slice – possibly in an attempt to make the match more exciting for the common television viewer. The statement led to an investigation by the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulations.

That led to Showtime, a major shareholder, walking away from Elite XC.

Corbbrey, who had a six-fight deal with Elite XC, said the folded company used fighters under contract as assets and it tied up his career for nearly a year. Thus, Savannah didn’t have a local main-event draw for any potential fight cards.

“God puts things in place,” said Corbbrey, not looking at the lost time negatively. “I had time to work on things I needed to perfect. I got a chance to sharpen my sword.”

Getting off the ground

Time in limbo also allowed Corbbrey, who has a wife and a 3-year-old boy, to attend to his business.

“I’m continuing to pursue my goals in martial arts, but I have to feed a child, too,” he said.

He’s the salesman of the business while Kheradmandi keeps the books in order.

There’s a lot for each to handle. Corbbrey said the gym hopes to put on kickboxing, grappling and boxing events along with with doing community service.

“We sat down, formulated a plan and made it happen,” Corbbrey said. “If you keep positive thoughts in your head, positive things will happen.

“I learned a long time ago it’s better to have 50 percent of a business doing amazing than 100 percent of a business that’s struggling.”

Champions Training Center

Location: 525 Windsor Road, Savannah

Features: Weightlifting, cardio training, boxing, martial arts, wrestling, yoga, sauna, tanning, jacuzzi

Fees: Starting at $49/month

For more information: Contact Muhsin Corbbrey at 912-349-4582.

By: Donald Heath

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