As far as Ray Cooper III is concerned, his PFL welterweight semifinal matchup against Rory MacDonald has been nearly a decade in the making.
Nine years ago, the Pearl City native was watching Hawaii MMA legend BJ Penn take on MacDonald in a UFC event on Dec. 9, 2012. MacDonald won the fight via unanimous decision.
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“I’m here to put on a show. I’m here to have exciting fights. I’m here to push myself to the limit and on that night, it’s gonna be fireworks because I’m gonna run through him and do it for BJ Penn since that’s one of the fights he lost,” Cooper told KHON2 sports director Rob DeMello. “He lost to him so BJ, I’m gonna pound him for you, man.
“I remember he was winning that fight and then I just remember one day, I hope I get to fight this guy, because at the time he was young, too. And I was young too, at the time I thought I could just smash anybody and I still think that to this day. But it’s gonna be a great night and I look forward to it.”
The 28-year-old Cooper is the defending PFL welterweight champion and advanced to the 2021 playoffs with a victory over Nikolai Aleksakhin at PFL 5 on June 17. A win over MacDonald would place him in his third consecutive PFL title fight.
MacDonald, meanwhile, has made a name for himself in the MMA circuit over the past decade and a half as a featured member of both the UFC and Bellator promotions. The current season is the 32-year-old Canadian’s first in the PFL. Cooper is not planning to give him a warm welcome to the league when the two square off at the Seminole Hard Rock Cafe & Casino in Tampa, Fla. come Friday.
“He came from the UFC and he’s just one big name guy that fought everybody and he was Georges St-Pierre’s prodigy,” Cooper said. “He’s just one big name guy that thought he was gonna come into the PFL and wreck house but he got another thing coming to him.
“This is not the first guy I’m gonna fight that has more experience than me. I think Jake (Shields) was a bigger fight for me. I’m just really happy to stay in this position that I get to fight Rory and I’m gonna pound him out.”
Cooper and MacDonald will be the main event on Friday. The card begins at 3 p.m. HST and will be shown live on both ESPN2 and ESPN+.