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Rory MacDonald vs. Ray Cooper III PFL MMA



Rory MacDonald vs. Ray Cooper III PFL MMA

Ray Cooper III beats Rory MacDonald by Round 3 Decision Keeping a $1 million pocket alive is all the motivation Ray Cooper III really needs as he enters Friday’s PFL middleweight playoff semifinals (9 pm ET, ESPN2/ESPN+) looks like. But Cooper has an additional incentive that fuels his desire to beat Rory MacDonald. Being the shiny new signing of McDonald’s fighting company has nothing to do with a former Bellator heavyweight champion and the UFC championship brought in to add shine to the 170-pound division. This weight class is chaired by Cooper, who was a finalist in both of the two completed seasons of the PFL. He won the championship in 2019 and the $1 million payout that came with it. As the 2020 PFL season has been canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, Cooper is the reigning, defending champion. All the attention this season has gone to MacDonald, though. Cooper insists he doesn’t mind sitting in the shadows. “Rory is a well-known man and has fought many well-known men,” Cooper said. Said. “He got attention because he fought in the biggest organization and became champion in another. I can’t wait to race him.” So what makes this a kind of grudge match? To uncover why Cooper sees the match as more than just the final step in his pursuit of a second million dollars, you must dig into his roots. Cooper, 28, is from Pearl City, Hawaii, and growing up an avid fighter and three-time state champion high school wrestler, he found inspiration in the early 2000s while watching a certain Aloha State legend perform. BJ Penn, a former jiu-jitsu world gold medalist and two-division UFC champion, is the greatest Hawaiian fighter ever. His victories were numerous and sometimes larger than life. He rose from the lightweight to dethrone UFC heavyweight king Matt Hughes. He battled Renzo Gracie in the lightweight and Lyoto Machida in the heavyweight. But the BJ Penn memory that gnaws at Cooper is from 2012, when Penn lost the unanimous decision to Rory MacDonald. “I have to get it back for BJ,” Cooper said. “He was the only Hawaiian man at the top, so BJ was a huge inspiration to me. Beating Rory this weekend will solidify that.” That’s as close to garbage talk as Cooper understands it. He’s a man with few words and less excited tones. His quiet words often lead to clichés like “I let my hands do the talking”. But if you’ve watched him perform in the cage, you’d know Cooper was telling the truth. This is one way—perhaps the only way—that Cooper and MacDonald look alike. Stylistically, as fighters, they’re as different as night and day – like “say goodnight” and “let’s ruin your day.” Cooper is purely forward-looking violence. MacDonald measures his dominance that rips you apart. Ray Cooper III hopes to defeat Rory MacDonald and then avenge his defeat against Magomed Magomedkerimov in the 2018 PFL finals. Cooper Neill / PFL Cooper and MacDonald have the same 22-7-1 records, but they got there by different routes. Cooper has a dozen PFL fights under his belt. MacDonald will make his third appearance in the PFL after ten years between the UFC and Bellator. One thing in common: MacDonald agrees with Cooper on BJ Penn. “I also looked to BJ as one of the guys who motivated me to get into this sport,” said 32-year-old Canadian MacDonald. “I will always remember the night I fought him. It was a very important fight in my career that I will never forget.” Now MacDonald faces another major challenge. It was one of three awards added to the PFL roster for this season, and the other two—heavyweight Fabricio Werdum and lightweight Anthony Pettis, both former UFC champions—haven’t even made the playoffs in their division. In contrast, MacDonald performed well after largely controlling Gleison Tibau for three rou, despite knocking off a nail when he went against a surprising split decision in June.

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