Though he wasn’t able to defend his 2019 PFL welterweight championship in 2020, Ray Cooper III doesn’t feel like last year was a lost cause. If anything he used his time off productively and feels ready to kick off his 2021 campaign.
When it comes to 2021 itself, Cooper puts his previous accomplishments aside and enters the year focused on what is in front of him.
“I wanted to fight, but the whole Covid put us on the sidelines,” Cooper told MMAWeekly.com. “It was a good time to heal up and see my family. I was training off and on, and just staying active. I stay home anyway, so I didn’t have problems with it.
“I put (being the 2019 champion) aside. That’s in the past. I’m looking forward to the future. I’m starting back at the bottom. I’m returning champion, but that was last tournament, and it’s a new year, so I’m just trying to win this now and am ready to go.”
Cooper was able to add some skills to his game last year, though he feels like there won’t be a big change in what he brings to the table in 2021.
“I’ve been working more on my striking, being patient, and picking my shots better,” said Cooper. “Other than that I haven’t changed much of anything. I still come out aggressive in all my fights.
“I like being in training camp. It’s fun for me. I enjoy it a lot. Just being off I wasn’t able to be in a fight camp with everything closed, and my brothers weren’t fighting, but I was training off and on. It was kind of weird, but it was a good time.”
On April 29 in Atlantic City, New Jersey Cooper (20-7-1) will look to take his first step towards defending his title when he faces Jason Ponet (20-12-1) in the regular season 170-pound co-main event of 2021 PFL 2.
“I don’t know much about this guy, so I’m going to go in there how I always go in there and go at him and finish the fight,” Cooper said of Ponet. “I don’t think he can handle my pressure. I’ve just got to go in there and finish so I can get the points to get into the playoffs.”
Having been through the PFL format before and come out victorious, Cooper feels like his experience will help him over the less experienced opposition he may face this season.
“I don’t know what these guys are going to do or how they’re going to react to fighting so often or how their bodies are going to hold up and how tough they are,” said Cooper. “Fighting two times in one night is not an easy thing to do. So I think my experience (with this format) will play a big part.”
PFL 2, 2021: Ceremonial Weigh-in Video
(Courtesy of PFL)