ATLANTA — With more than 40 years of experience under his belt in the kickboxing community, Professional Kickboxing Association CEO Joe Corley is excited to rebrand and relaunch PKA.
With the interest in combat sports at an all-time high, Corley has assembled a team of experienced vets to bring kickboxing’s brightest talents to global audiences.
After years of seeking an investor, Corley has secured assistance from longtime sports entrepreneur Jimmy Anderson, who once held ownership stakes in the Sacramento Kings and Pittsburgh Pirates.
PKA’s unique rules set it apart from other kickboxing organizations. On August 27, PKA Worldwide invaded Texas in their “Hunt for the World’s Greatest Strikers.”
Zenger caught up with Joe Corley to discuss the Professional Kickboxing Association.
Zenger: Fight fans love kickboxing because it eliminates clinching and grappling. You have been involved in this sport for so long, what has it been like to watch its progression?
Corley: I was writing a piece, and I was talking about how I had a three-level spinal fusion in December 1973. Nine months later, I was asked to come in and judge the first world kickboxing championship, the first PKA Championship.
Bill Wallace won his middleweight title there, Jeff Smith won the light heavyweight, and Joe Lewis won the heavyweight title. Isiasis Duenas from Mexico won the lightweight title. That night, I left there saying, I need to challenge Bill Wallace for his world middleweight title, which we did eight months later. It’s something that’s driven me for nearly five decades. It was a life-changer.
Zenger: PKA’s motto is “Punch, Kick, Repeat.” Is that what we can expect?
Corley: Yes, and the reason is, because of the rules. We use what we call “The Electric Chair Penalty.” If you were clinching, the referee would say: “You’ve been holding, that’s your one warning for the round. Every time you hold after this, there will be one point taken away.” As you know, one single point can cost you the whole fight. We also don’t allow leg kicks.
Every athlete in the world, to get from point A to point B, they have to use their legs. Why would you destroy an opponent’s legs? It makes no sense. In self-defense, it’s great. If you’re standing in front of me, and you’re going to attack me, I think throwing a shin into the outside part of your knee is certainly a wonderful thing to do to you. But not if we’re athletes competing in a sport.
Zenger: You have said on a number of occasions, now was the perfect time to rebrand, PKA and bring it back. Why now?
Corley: When we met with Dana White a few years ago, I said: “Thank you for everything.” He said: “What do you mean?” I said: “In 1979, we laid out a plan to become the world’s first publicly owned sport. We just didn’t get a ton of financial backing. You guys showed through hard work and your promotion, that martial artists and martial arts deserve to stand alongside all the other sports. I’m just sad we didn’t have the financial wherewithal to do it at the time.”
Because of their success, there are so many people now that recognize combat sports as a legitimate sports enterprise and an investment opportunity.
Zenger: Speaking of investments, Jimmy Anderson, a prominent sports-business figure, has invested in PKA. How vital was his involvement for you to move forward?
Corley: We’ve always felt that someone who had a real affinity for the sport would be the perfect kind of investor. Jimmy Anderson had been a boxer in his youth. He then went into martial arts and achieved some rank in martial arts. A lot of the friends he hung out with in the past dozen years were in martial arts. People like Chuck Norris and Pat Burleson, who we recently lost.
Jimmy understood it. He was one of the first people to put financing behind Dennis “The Terminator” Alexio, who was one of our great heavyweight champions. He also had a boxer, Tony “The Tiger” Lopez, who was a world champion boxer. He had a great win-loss record with all the fighters he got behind.
Jimmy was a natural match for us, and it was vital. His initial contributions have been vital.
Zenger: What do you guys look for when scouting fighters?
Corley: Charisma. When I was in high school, I was watching Muhammad Ali, then Cassius Clay. His role model had been Gorgeous George. Ali came off as being outlandish. Some people called him crazy. What we think charisma is, is having the right amount of endearing crazy to go with phenomenal skills.
We don’t want psychotic crazy, we want endearing crazy.
Joe Namath in football was like that. You have people like Vasiliy Lomachenko, who in my estimation, is the greatest fighter of all time in terms of boxing and who can do everything. You watch what he does in his drills and training and that is magnetic. We’re really looking for that, great skills in the fighters — and endearing crazy.
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