One week from tonight is fight night for Hawaii’s Ray Cooper III as the reigning PFL welterweight champion will look to make it back-to-back title in Florida.
The Pearl City native who won the $1-million grand prize in 2019 sat out the entire 2020 amid the pandemic and bulldozed his way into the finals for a third consecutive season by extending his winning streak to five.
Awaiting him in the championship round will be the same fighter that he lost to in the 2018 final, Russia’s Magomed Magomedkerimov.
“It’s an awesome feeling to be back in the final. That’s my goal every single time through this tournament style fighting, and to fight the guy that I lost to in the first season of the company, it’s very rewarding,” Cooper told KHON2 Sports Director Rob DeMello.
The loss to Magomedkerimov which came via second round submission was admittedly a turning point in the career of Cooper, who says he learned a valuable lesson that night in Atlantic City.
“It was just an experience moment of my career of thinking that I could just run through everybody without having there be consequences for your actions if you make a mistake and yeah, it really set me back but it also moved me forward of being a more smarter fighter. More tactical, thinking about my shots. Still being aggressive how I like to fight but you just got to pick your shots more easily because not all the time you going to knock somebody out and it can happen to you or you can get submitted so you always got to be o your toes. You can’t always go in there recklessly.”
There will be a heavy prize on the line come championship night where beyond the glory that comes with the title, will be the lucrative pay day of seven figures. Unlike most other organizations, the discrepancy in pay isn’t discussed much. However, given the nature of the tournament style of the PFL, it’s widely known that the winner walks away with a million dollars, and the loser earning three quarters of a million less.
“It’s a big motivator. That’s a lot of money that you’re fighting for and it’s out for everyone to know. Everybody is knowing that you’re going to fight for a million dollars and no other promotion puts that out there so it’s a big thing but all in all, you can’t be thinking about that when you’re fighting. You got to be thinking about just fighting and I really don’t think about it that much. The money wise, because I now it’s there and I know I train hard and I don’t need to tell anybody I train hard but for me I know I train hard and all the way at the end, it’s just there for me for grab ’em because I work so hard and I’m not going to let anybody go over there and take it from me.”
In past years, Cooper has had a strong fan base of family and friends follow him into the championship match and that is expected once again in Hollywood, Florida. However, the fans that cheer him on from back home in the islands aren’t forgotten.
“It means a lot. Just for people see one Hawaii guy coming from one small island in the pacific to make it to a big show. Yeah, it’s real humbling because I just like for all the young kids to l know that there’s nothing that can stop you. You put your mind to something, you can do anything. That’s what I live off of,” said Cooper. “That’s just the way we was brought up. Everybody in Hawaii. Brought up to love each other, support each other and I’m going to feel the love from everybody from the islands and I’m going to bring ’em home.”
PFL Championship night is set for Wednesday, October 27 with the main card scheduled to start at 2:00pm HST on ESPN2.
“All my hard work that I put into these last three years to make it to the finals for the third time means a lot. It means where I stand in the overall welterweight division of the world, I believe that I’m one of the top guys in the world in any organization, so this is just going to cement what I believe and to do it against the guy that beat me is going to be awesome.”