Ray Cooper says Zane Kamaka, his cousin and first opponent of the second PFL season, doesn’t belong and will just be a name on his list towards the 2019 PFL welterweight title.
It’s rare to see family fight family in MMA, let alone in the traditional martial arts, and some may even consider it taboo. But this is exactly what will happen when Ray Cooper faces Zane Kamaka on the first card of the PFL’s 2019 season.
Cooper, who was the runner-up of PFL’s welterweight playoffs last year, and Kamaka, who enters the PFL for the first time, are cousins by adoption, not blood, but the two have trained together in the past.
Cooper told FanSided that he doesn’t see anything special Kamaka will test him with.
“We’ve trained together in the past and I’ve bested him many of times,” Cooper told FanSided. “He don’t have a ground [game]. He’s only got a stand-up game, and his stand-up game is not up to par with the crop of guys that we’re going to be fighting.
I don’t think he’s anything. I don’t study him. Go watch his last fight. He’s a point fighter. Most of his fights go to a decision. He don’t finish anybody. He’s just going to be another name on my list that I’m going to take out and I’m just looking forward to getting back to the finals.”
Kamaka is 12-3 on the regional circuit and was a contestant on season 16 of The Ultimate Fighter, but he lost his house entry fight. He also had one bout in Titan FC, where he dropped a decision to current UFC fighter Belal Muhammad.
Cooper suspects that Kamaka felt he wasn’t going anywhere with the big-time promotions and thought the PFL would be the best chance to get that due to his relationship with Cooper.
“[He] got his own manager and I guess he wanted to come into PFL,” Cooper said. “I guess he wasn’t getting anywhere anytime soon. He wasn’t getting into any big promotions. And it’s probably because of me being in the PFL and doing good that he tried to get in.”
Cooper also clarified this wasn’t a fight made by chance, by tournament draw, or by set-up from PFL officials. He claims he requested this fight be made.
“It’s personal between me and him,” Cooper said. “It was just me calling [PFL founder] Ray Sefo and telling him I want this fight because he doesn’t belong here.”
This fight won’t represent just a chance for Cooper to make a point against his cousin with bad blood, but the start of a chance for redemption, as well.
Cooper was a dominating figure in the PFL’s welterweight division in 2018, advancing to the playoffs with big round stoppages of former Strikeforce middleweight and WSOF welterweight champ Jake Shields and Pavel Kusch. He then scored first-round finishes of Shields and Handesson Ferreira on the same night at PFL 10 to reach the championship bout at PFL 11 on New Year’s Eve, where he was submitted by Magomed Magomedkerimov.
“[I] worked on my wrestling a little bit more [during the offseason],” Cooper said. “Left my neck out too much and it cost me. But other than that, still training hard every day and training to finish guys.
“I don’t see anybody [being tough competition]. I’m going to run through everybody. I just want my rematch with Magomed.”
Nonetheless, participating in the PFL — with its unique regular season and playoffs format — was an exciting opportunity for Cooper last year, and he’s glad he’ll be able to do it again.
“It was awesome, being in a season, fighting two fights first, getting your points up so you can get into the playoffs,” he said. “It was unbelievable. Getting to the championship, things didn’t go my way. I had a little bump, but it was awesome to fight in Madison Square Garden and [other] iconic arenas in the world.”
To top it all off, making this second PFL season all the better for Cooper is the promotion’s new broadcast deal with ESPN, which will see PFL fight cards presented on ESPN2 and ESPN+. Cooper says it’s a big opportunity for himself and the rest of the PFL.
“[It’s] better for the fighters and the league. We’re pretty much right at the top now,” he said. “We were on NBC [Sports Network] and we had a huge leap getting onto to ESPN. We’re pretty much the top guys with the UFC. We’re just making big, great leaps and I’m excited for the PFL and so happy to be part of the company.”
The first event of the PFL’s second season takes place on Thursday, May 9, 2019, live from NYCB Live at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Long Island, NY. Follow along with FanSided MMA throughout fight week for exclusive content and results.