2019 PFL champ Ray Cooper III says “There’s a lot for me” in third season
Ray Cooper III, a two-time PFL welterweight finalist and the 2019 champion, still feels he has more to accomplish within the promotion.
After a year-long layoff, Cooper is set to enter his third season against France’s Jason Ponet in Las Vegas, Nevada on April 29. In the field of 10 total welterweights full of former UFC talent and potential rematches, the Hawaiian sees plenty of intriguing matchups ahead.
“There’s a lot for me in the competition. I think I need to make a statement, make it known who is the best in the division,” Cooper said.
“I know I’m the best, so I just need to go out there and make a point to everybody I’m the king and I’m here to stay.”
Ray Cooper eyes potential PFL tournament rematches
Cooper is the only fighter who made it to back-to-back PFL finals in the 2021 welterweight pool. The only other returning champion is Magomed Magomedkarimov, who he lost to by second-round TKO in the 2018 finals on New Year’s Eve.
Cooper is targeting a rematch with Magomedkarimov this year. Another fighter Cooper wants to run it back with is Sadibou Sy, who he fought to a draw at PFL 7 in October 2019.
There’s plenty of new competition available this season, but he knows what he wants.
“I would really like to fight Magomed, but I think we’re going to fight more in the playoffs, hopefully meet him back in the championship,” Cooper said. “I would like to fight all of them and right all the wrongs.”
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One of the fresh matchups includes former UFC title challenger and the former Bellator 170-pound king Rory MacDonald.
MacDonald is set to debut against the 2019 runner up and fellow UFC veteran David Michaud on the same night Cooper faces Ponet. “Bradda Boy” is quite familiar with Michaud after defeating him via second-round TKO during the finals in December 2019.
Even though Cooper is proven in the PFL division, he sees most of the competition targeting MacDonald. Cooper is unsure if “The Red King” will get his hand raised in April.
“I think everybody is gunning for Rory, but I think he is just past it already. He’s got his hands full with David, especially coming off his loss when we fault. It’s not going to be an easy fight, he [David] is a tough guy,” Cooper said. “It’s going to be a good fight, but I’m leaning more towards David.”
To the top
Also entering the regular season for the first time are two other octagon veterans in Gleison Tibau and Aleksei Kunchenko. Russian standout Nikolai Aleksakhin is one of the news additions as well.
Cooper is confident he will make his third-consecutive championship appearance, but is unsure who will join. One thing he does know is that the season is anyone’s to take.
“Anybody in the division can challenge each other,” Cooper said. “I love pushing myself and fighting the top guys. I feel this season is one of the most stacked we’re going to get to.”
Connor Northrup once covered municipal meetings and promised himself never again. He is now combining his passion for Mixed Martial Arts and reporting all into one.