Phil Gage finally has some balance in his life, and his priorities are in order.
Gage didn’t shuffle off to college after graduating from Lake High School in 2008. In his own words he “went my own way and life took me in a bad direction.”
Gage, 24, started drinking and smoking but he eventually realized he needed a change, so he moved to Surprise, Ariz., near Phoenix, in March 2010 and moved in with his cousin, Chris Mack.
“I took a bad turn and I didn’t want help from anybody,” Gage said. “Chris is one of the top fight trainers in the world and he asked me to come out with him for a little bit. He’s also a martial arts trainer and all around a good man, and he grew up doing martial arts his whole life.”
Gage said his weight ballooned to 230 pounds after high school, but Mack got him in the gym and began training him in martial arts. Gage lost 85 pounds in one year after Mack got him involved in muay thai, a combat sport from the muay martial arts of Thailand that uses stand-up striking along with various clinching techniques.
“I started fighting in 2011,” Gage said. “Muay thai was what my cousin was interested in, and I fell in love with it. I liked boxing, kick boxing and karate. I tried using my knees and elbows and throwing a lot of kicks. That’s kind of the direction I went. Muay thai fits my body style because I’m long and lanky.”
Gage, who is 5-foot-11, 145 pounds, said he originally got involved in fighting to lose weight. But the more he became involved in muay thai, the more he wanted to see how his skills played out in the ring.
“I want to fight and compete and be a professional and make it a lifestyle,” he said. “I didn’t just want to fill a void and have it help save my life. I’ve trained little kids, adults and seniors in martial arts. It changed my life and I’m glad it’s made an impact on those I’ve trained.”
Gage currently holds two Southwest Regional muay thai titles.
“Some of the fights I’ve had were real tough,” he said. “There have been no easy fights. People are just smart about the way they fight. The ones who just go out there and try to blast you, I beat the easiest. The guys who are the smartest are the toughest ones to beat.”
Gage won the United States Muay Thai Association Southwest Regional title in the welterweight (140-145 pounds) division in September 2012. He won the International Kickboxing Federation Southwest Regional welterweight title in June of this year.
“They were main-event fights,” Gage said of the five-round bouts. “My cousin and I worked hard every day, sometimes twice a day six days a week. I had to prove myself for every fight. Winning those (titles) meant the world. I proved to myself and everybody that I can do whatever I put my mind to, and anything is possible.”
Now that his life has balance, Gage decided to move back to Toledo on Sept. 9 because, he said, “I have a feeling there’s more of a chance that I can make something of myself here.”
“There are more opportunities here,” he said. “(Fighting) is a part of my life, but I have to have something to fall back on because fighting won’t be a part of my life forever.”
Gage doesn’t know when he’ll compete in the ring again. He said he’s “just getting my head back on my shoulders” in Toledo. He plans to begin boxing, because muay tai isn’t that popular in this area.
“I have to get some things together and find a good gym and find somebody I can trust in my corner,” Gage said. “I see this as a career, but maybe not a main career. I want (fighting) to be my career, but I’m totally away from the person (Mack) who brought me from the bottom up and I need someone to have in my corner that I can trust wholeheartedly.”