Between moving to Thailand, scoring 63 Muay Thai fights, being part of one of the most gripping documentaries of all time, being a celebrity on the other side of the world and re-acclimating himself to the U.S., Cody Moberly has lived a full life.
The Showtime documentary, Prison Fighters: Five Rounds to Freedom, documents a Thai inmate fighting for his freedom. Not metaphorically, after being convicted of murder, “Noy” Khaopan has one path to freedom: winning Muay Thai bouts.
The final step for Khaopan’s freedom was a fight with American transplant Cody Moberly.
“I went to my gym one day and my coach told me I was going to do a fight in a documentary about prison fights,” Moberly said. “It seemed like every week I would get more and more information on it and it became more and more real.”
After being hand-picked by his coach, Moberly took the fight with a shrug and a, “sounds good.” As the weeks would go on, Moberly’s grasp of the concept grew tighter and tighter.
“I didn’t even know what he did, honestly, until it got closer to the fight,” Moberly explained. “I just knew he was in prison for something. I didn’t know he killed someone until about a week before. The funny thing was, the day of the fight it wasn’t even on my mind. It was in the back of my mind but I wasn’t really thinking about it. It was just another fight.”
The fights for LF 64 keep coming as Kansas’ own Cody “Black Shark” Moberly, who had a pivotal role in the Showtime documentary Prison Fighters, is matched up against Michael “Iron Boy” Triana in a lightweight feature. Catch it all on @UFCFightPass! #LionFight64 pic.twitter.com/gxVICEirNi— Lion Fight (@LionFight) February 26, 2021
Even his coach would leak information slowly to Moberly. The faceless prisoner Moberly knew initially became Noy Khaopan, murderer with a son and an extensive Muay Thai background in a matter of weeks. As much as Moberly wanted to say it was just another fight, he noticed that even training became a bit of a spectacle.
“It seemed like I would train normal and then anytime the documentary crew would come and do a little interview or shoot more footage it became more real and I would be more motivated for a little bit and then I would just go back to not putting too much pressure on myself,” Moberly said.
With 40+ Thai bouts under his belt already, everything from his spinning elbows to his wai krus were fine tuned. Moberly had an understanding from the jump that this fight would be unique, but the more attention that came his way from both the documentary crew and the prisoners, the more it hit him.
This would be a fight like none other.
Freedom and a relationship with his son were on the line for Khaopan and he put it all together and defeated Moberly in a decision by only one point.
In a stroke of odd timing, Moberly’s flight back to the U.S. from Thailand was scheduled months prior, for the day of the fight. He sat on the plane next to dozens of other people going about their everyday lives while he juggled the happiness for Khaopan and the bitter taste of defeat.
“I fought my heart out,” Moberly said. “I remember sitting on the plane and thinking, ‘Wow, I just fought this Thai prisoner and now I’m on a plane and nobody even knows.’”
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Moberly spent five years in Thailand. In that chapter of his life he had made himself nearly a household name. Getting stopped in airports and malls for pictures was routine by the time he left. He was heading back to obscurity in the United States after a life of celebrity, but he left with the most unique parting gift of all time and a documentary crew that literally captured the entire journey.
Moberly wasn’t sure of his expectations for the documentary and when he finally saw it, it was even bigger than his wildest expectations.
“It’s big to me,” Moberly said. “Especially now that I’ve watched the documentary. I got to see how it all unfolded and what the backstory was and everything like that. I didn’t even realize the position I was in until I got to see it from the outside looking in.”
Four years since the release, Moberly is still in the U.S. He still competes in Muay Thai and he still has social media contact with Khaopan. No matter how hard he trained for the fight or how well the story was told, Moberly still goes back and forth on his feelings for his former opponent.
No title could possibly match the reward Khaopan fought for that day, but morally it is still a struggle for Moberly.
“I’m actually friends on Facebook with the Thai prisoner I fought, and after I saw that he got reunited with his son and stuff like that, it felt like, I don’t know, it’s conflicting,” Moberly explained. “When you hear the parents of the victim’s story and you see him with his son, sometimes I don’t even know what to think or feel about it.”
Moberly currently works a third shift job while teaching Muay Thai and competing. He trained with and fought a who’s who of Thai superstars in the mecca of the sport and competed in arguably one of the most high-stakes Muay Thai matches ever recorded. It’d be impossible to make him nervous after that kind of life, right?
“This might sound funny but I almost get a little bit more nervous because I get Thais and their style,” Moberly laughed. “They start off slow and start speeding up. The foreign fighters, though, even when I fought in China you don’t know how they’re going to act when they fight.”
After nearly twenty bouts since his fight with Khaopan, he’s settled back in and still craves competition in the sport that gave him immortality.
The fights may grow harder to prepare for, but Moberly knows it will be very hard to top the feeling he got in the ring that summer night in Thailand.
Catch Cody Moberly at Lion Fight 64 Friday, March 12, ONLY on UFC FIGHT PASS!