Considering Henry Corrales’ current hot streak, it’s easy to forget that he was much closer to the free agent line than the contender’s line two years ago.
Back in 2015, the then-King of the Cage featherweight champion was 12-0, and he was picked up by Bellator to face former titleholder Daniel Straus on short notice. Corrales lost to Straus by second-round submission at Bellator 138, then dropped a split decision to Emmanuel Sanchez in his next outing. For his third fight in the promotion, Corrales again stepped in on short notice, this time against another former champion, Patricio Freire.
“Pitbull” submitted Corrales with a second-round guillotine choke.
Just like that, Corrales went from being a white-hot undefeated prospect to 0-3 inside the Bellator cage. But twice helping out the matchmakers to save fights gave him some currency with the company, and so far he has made the most of it after following his striking coach Eddie Cha to The MMA Lab and completely turning his fortunes around.
“No, I don’t give a f*ck,” Corrales told MMA Fighting. “You can’t fight forever and I wouldn’t be able to look at myself a couple of years from now when I’m retired and be like, ‘Damn, I bitched out, I didn’t want to fight those guys on two weeks’ notice,’ or, ‘I didn’t want to fight that guy on four weeks’ notice for my Bellator debut.’ That’s just bitch-made to me and I just don’t operate like that. Everything works out for a reason and I wouldn’t have developed the skill set that I have now, the mindset that I have now if that didn’t happen.
“You always hear those cutesy sayings like, ‘Oh, you learn from your losses,’ but those f*cking losses, they dig deep. They invoked a lot of feeling out of me so it was super necessary and it put me in a position where I’m at now where I’m just unstoppable at the moment.”
Corrales has been tough to beat since moving to Phoenix. He got back in the win column with a third-round knockout of Cody Bollinger in January of last year and followed that up with unanimous decision nods over Noad Lahat and former World Series of Fighting champion Georgi Karakhanyan.
The Karakhanyan fight confirmed to Corrales that the changes he’d made in his life were working.
“That was good,” said Corrales. “That just kind of justified my behavior for the last couple of years and it was an accomplishment that let me know I was on the right path. I know I’m on the right path, but sometimes you need that stamp of approval from some accomplishments and I think that was one of them.
“Georgi’s a super f*cking high-quality fighter. He’s a good dude and it was good to go in there and mix it up with him.”
Rough starts are nothing new for Corrales, who earned the nickname “OK” both in reference to the infamous corral in Tombstone, Ariz., and for his penchant to agree to do pretty much anything suggested to him, whether it be partying, or sparring with a professional boxer with zero boxing experience of his own. His athletic background was essentially nonexistent before trying his hand at mixed martial arts.
If anything, Corrales was logging more jail time than gym time in his early 20s. He describes his younger self as a “f*cking loser” that was living wrong until someone told him to give MMA a shot.
“I was so sick of getting in trouble at the time,” said Corrales. “I was like, ‘Dude, I’m f*cking 23 now, I’m so over this.’ So when I got out, I just went to the closest gym to me and luckily there were some high-quality dudes there and I just rolled up straight into the pro practices. Wouldn’t even train technique, I would just show up to the sparring days and open mat for the first six months and then finally I was like, ‘Alright, I’m gonna take this serious,’ and I joined a real school and I just took off, never looked back.”
It’s that mindset that has Corrales prepared for the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. A win on Saturday would keep him on track for a featherweight title shot, a stunning reversal from the initial losing streak that could have been the end of his Bellator run.
But Corrales wasn’t worried about what officials had in store for him then and he’s certainly not letting it drag him down now.
“There’s always the thought of that across the board in life. Your time could be called f*cking right now on the drive home, so those thoughts and realities are always there, but I don’t waste my brain juice on that type of f*cking thinking,” said Corrales. “There’s just bigger fish to fry than to be worrying about shit that’s out of my control.”