Ray Cooper III was happy to win a $1 million grand prize for winning the PFL’s Season 2 tournament. But he’s already looking ahead at the competition he’ll face in Season 3.
At the top of that list is former UFC title contender and ex-Bellator champ Rory MacDonald, who recently signed a deal to join the PFL roster after entering free agency in late 2019.
It may be his first PFL season, but MacDonald undoubtedly has the biggest target on his back. Cooper is so anxious to welcome “The Red King” to the PFL, he hopes the organization books them in the first fight of the season.
“I would love to fight him first right off the bat,” Cooper told MMA Fighting. “Just get it out of the way already. If we’ve got to wait until later, we’ll wait until later, but I want to challenge him first.
“We’ll see what Ray Sefo does. He’s still hammering out the division. There’s still Magomed [Magomedkerimov], there’s still John Howard, there’s still David Michaud, there’s still a lot of guys coming back. It’s going to be a good year next year.”
One part of Cooper wants to face MacDonald out of sheer respect. MacDonald already is one of the most established and accomplished fighters on the roster, which is exactly why Cooper wants to get to him first – before anybody else gets the chance.
“He’s an amazing fighter,” Cooper said. “I used to watch him when I was growing up, too, watching him fight all the top notch guys. It’s going to be an honor to fight against him. I would love to fight him early in the season or whatever. I want to show him what’s up.
“That’s going to be a big step for my career and my legacy to fight Rory. He trains with Georges St-Pierre, one of the best, if not the best welterweights, so a win over him is going to help my career big time.”
The other factor that’s driving the 26-year-old Hawaiian is MacDonald’s vicious win over UFC Hall of Famer B.J. Penn in 2012. MacDonald dominated Penn in the UFC’s Octagon for the better part of three rounds before winning a decision.
“I need to get him back for one of our boys,” Cooper explained. “He beat B.J. Penn back in the day, and that was kind of unsettling. So I’ve got rewrite that.
“I just have a lot of respect for B.J. He paved the way for Hawaii, fighting in the UFC, and he was just the first one to make it out of here and make it to the big time. I really looked up to him as an inspiration that we can make it.”
Whether he battles MacDonald straight out of the gate, or has to wait until later in the season for the fight to happen, Cooper is confident they will eventually cross paths. MacDonald may have the name and recognition for now, but he believes he’ll have a chance to steal that spotlight.
“I think I match up great against him,” Cooper said. “He likes pressure, and I bring the pressure in all of my fights. I think can outwrestle him, too. He’s a little bit taller than me, but everybody is taller than me. I think it’s a good matchup.”