“The Heavy Tank from Busan” is about as descriptive as a ring name can get, and Choi Mu-Bae fits it to the letter. His next battlefield to cross will be at ROAD FC 49 this Saturday.
The heavyweight steamrolls through punches and over opponents, muscling them and absorbing whatever comes at him. Choi’s been operating this way since making his MMA debut in PRIDE back in 2004.
Choi Mu-Bae was a decorated champion in Greco-Roman wrestling throughout high school and university, medaling at the Asia Wrestling Championships in 1991 when Korea dominated the sport. His fame and acumen got him recruited as an MMA referee by Spirit MC in 2003. Korea’s MMA scene was beginning it’s climb along with Japan’s, and the tide carried Choi Mu-Bae with it.
“The first time I saw MMA, I don’t remember how old I was, but I rented a UFC video before they had a TV broadcast. Then I was invited to watch PRIDE at the Tokyo Dome. I almost had an opportunity to fight Fedor, but it didn’t come through. I was given a formal offer later.”
Choi Mu-Bae’s first year in MMA was a tremendous success. His wrestling technique and power translated well, and he went 5-0 with four fights in PRIDE, including a win over Soa Palelei. Through 2009 he rose to 9-3 in K-1, The Khan, Pancrase, and finally Sengoku. He picked up two very good wins over Gary Goodridge and Dave Herman.
“My most memorable fight was against Gary Goodridge. It was really controversial, people even asked if the fight was faked. I was losing badly, but in the second round I knocked him out.”
At 48 years old, Choi Mu-Bae is currently undergoing his self-proclaimed “second peak” in MMA under the ROAD FC banner, although he’s accumulated three losses in a row. He came back with wins over Lucas Tani and a ground and pound finish over Yusuke Kawaguchi, but ate Mighty Mo’s fists – twice – and blocked three rounds of Jake Heun’s punches with his concrete noggin. How can he endure this at his age and still keep coming back to the cage?
“My age is a reality. Not too long ago, people died at my age, but now people are living longer. So, I must continue to fight so that I can deliver the right message: if you stop developing at 50, you will slowly be killing yourself. I hope that people who are negative about my age will be more supportive, but I thank them for at least showing interest.”
On the flip side of the coin is the fact that he’s now in a pool of fighters who are much younger. Such is the case with his next opponent, China’s up and coming prospect Ma Anding.
“How old was I when Ma Anding was born in 1996? He’s 22 now? The youngest kid in my gym is 22 and we work out together. His father is the same age as me. But I train a lot, so I’m ready for anything. In previous fights, I always closed the distance and wrestled – I like big and beautiful techniques, like the suplex – but I want to try to show my boxing a bit more, try to express it well. The kind of genius that Tyson, Mayweather and Lomachenko are showing. I don’t know if I can do it, but I promise to try.”
Choi Mu-Bae ‘s constant quest to improve his MM skills reflects in his personal life as well.
“I’m learning woodworking and ironworking. Things that take me out of my depth. I have plans to build my own house later. For relaxing, I like to ride my motorcycle. I also have cats.”
In today’s MMA, more and more fighters are able to take their careers well into their 40s. Fedor is 41. On the same card with Choi is Kazuyuki Fujita, at the ripe age of 47. Mighty Mo is 47 and he dominated ROAD FC’s openweight division for years. Looking past his next opponent, might Choi Mu-Bae consider a superstar rematch with someone from his history?
“No way. The guys I fought are all scary fighters. I don’t want to fight any of them again [laughs].”
That doesn’t mean Choi Mu-Bae has any plans of packing it in, getting on his motorcycle, and going off to build a cabin in the mountains. He has a mission to inspire his generation to delay that kind of thinking.
“When I was young, I was one of Korea’s first MMA fighters. I’m still very eager to be as good as possible and I feel no signs of aging because I’m a tough person. I want people my age to see me and know that they can still accomplish so much in life. I don’t want a lot of encouragement, but I hope you’ll be interested in my fight and appreciate the results.”