Ray Cooper III could’ve left PFL 1 this week in good position to make the postseason without ever stepping into the cage.
After his opponent Zane Kamaka missed the allowed welterweight limit by 1.8 pounds, the fight’s fate was in Cooper’s hands. He already was awarded a walkover victory and three points in the PFL’s standings. He could leave Long Island without risking injury and still be in shape for a playoff berth with one fight left in the regular season.
But the chance to earn some bonus points and secure the top seed in the division, as well as take out some built-up aggression on Kamaka, is worth the risk of injury for Cooper.
“I’m not built that way, I’m not going to just not fight just because somebody couldn’t be professional and make their weight. I’m a fighter and I came here to fight,” Cooper said. “I don’t want just three points, I’m going in there to get the top seed, and to do that you’ve got to fight and finish the fight in the first round, and that’s what I’m going to do.”
Cooper is set to face Kamaka, his adopted cousin, in the PFL’s first event of its second season on Thursday at NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum.
A finalist in last year’s welterweight tournament, Cooper said his past knowledge and experience with PFL’s unique format played into his decision to stay on the card.
“Probably if I came in to this as the first season, I would’ve took the three points just to secure myself in the playoffs,” Cooper said. “But knowing that most of the guys might come out and four guys get could first-round finishes, that’s six points and those four guys are in front of me.”
While Kamaka and Cooper still have unfinished business to settle, Kamaka was thankful the fight was still on.
“I was super nervous because throughout our camps, we’ve been kind of bickering and I was like, Oh man, my fate relies in his hands right now,’” Kamaka said. “I really respect him for doing that, that’s what a real fighter does so I really respect him for that, but it’s go time, bro, it is what it is.”
Kamaka said the beef between him and his fellow Hawaiian Cooper comes from an ongoing competitive streak between the two that’s moved from their hometown of Waianae into the PFL cage.
“The island is super small and everyone wants that No. 1 spot,” Kamaka said. “Me and him been on top for a long time, he got his opportunity last season and I got mine this season, and I guess he’s all salty about that, but there’s no way I could shut down this opportunity.”
Cooper said he doesn’t think family should go against each other and wasn’t happy Kamaka joined PFL, so he requested the fight with Kamaka.
“He’s adopted into my mom’s side of the family and the way I was raised, family, we stick together,” said Cooper. “He’s been a disgrace to my family’s name, so that’s where it comes from.”