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Reflecting on the wild journey of PFL winner Ray Cooper III

One of the main attributions that entice people to tune into the Professional Fighters League is the end goal: the chance to win $1 million. To do so, you must go through a grueling schedule in which you can fight about 4-5 times in a year. Something that helps fans decide who to root for throughout the year-long tournament are the stories of the fighters.

In two seasons with the PFL, nobodies story appears to be that interesting than that of Ray Cooper III.

Cooper (20-7-1) beat David Michaud on New Year’s Eve during the PFL Finals to win the PFL Welterweight Tournament and $1,000,000. He was aggressive throughout the bout, and while both were doing well in the clinch, Cooper managed to hit brutal shots to the body of Michaud, ending the fight in the middle of round two.

The win was a redemption arc for Cooper, as he lost last year’s finals to Magomed Magomedkerimov via submission. Both times he had family and friends take over Madison Square Garden’s Hulu Theater. Family was a major theme the past two seasons, something that helped motivate Cooper to be the best he could possibly be.

Cooper started season one 4-0. Two major victories came at the hands of Jake Shields, who beat his dad, Ray Cooper Jr., back in 2002 by majority decision.

“I wanted to lick the guy that beat my dad,” Cooper III said. “It was (my dad’s) choice to retire, and he’d been doing it for a while. He was thinking of us most of the time. You’ve got to think of your kids. Now that I’ve got kids, I know what he’s talking about. My kids are my everything. I like everything for them. I know how he feels.”

Cooper got the revenge, but didn’t get all the glory. So this year he worked extra hard to change the script. Overall, he went 3-1-1 in 2019. His first bout was against his own family in Zane Kamaka. With his own personal beef against his cousin, the usually tame Cooper acted out of character. He got into scuffles and starting trash-talking his opponent. Nonetheless, Cooper put his emotions behind him and submitted Kamaka on Long Island, embracing him afterward.

Following that, Cooper lost to John Howard but made it to the quarterfinals. He drew with Sadibou Sy and advanced before knocking out Chris Curtis in the semifinals.

By winning the finals, the payday won by Cooper III topped his dad’s run by $993,000 (the biggest check he got was $7,000). He could now support his family just as his father always dreamed he could do with his career.

Does Cooper have what it takes to provide us an encore next season? While the situation has changed, the goal remains the same.

A fighter all of his life, Cooper used his anger and overall ability to become a commodity within the PFL. A symbol of hope, Ray Cooper III’s journey is unorthodox compared to most, but “Bradda Boy” has always liked the odds stacked against him. It just means that he could break down all those who oppose him, whether mentally outside the cage or physically inside of it.

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Baseball Editor, Misc. Sports Editor. Covers all things combat sports (MMA, Pro Wrestling and Boxing). When he's not writing, Daniel hosts a podcast, The Main Event.
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