EXCLUSIVE | Bellator Middleweight Semi-Finalist Brett Cooper | Fist-Ta-Cuff Radio
Fist-ta-Cuff radio was able to take some time out of Bellator semifinalist Brett Cooper’s training schedule to talk to him about his upcoming fight at Bellator 92. He is scheduled to meet fellow Middleweight Dan Cramer for a spot in the finals. They get his take on training for his upcoming fight, and what he thinks about all the upsets so far this season on Bellator.
Host: A man who is stepping into a Bellator Final fight Thursday night. I’m going to be there, Drew is going to be there. I can’t wait to get a chance to catch up with him on camera after the show. But, uh, we might as well welcome him to the show and without further ado; he’s a dude who has been banging it out and killing cats all season, all season when I say that. And I have a feeling it’s going to go down as well just like that come Thursday, Brett Cooper how you doing tonight brother?
Brett Cooper: Good how you guys doing?
Host: Man I’m doing good dude, I’ve been trying to have you on the show, and when Drew told us you’d be coming on the show this week I did my research like I always do, but I’ve been watching you man, you’ve been on the come up you’ve been killing this season of the Bellator format.
Brett Cooper: Yeah it seems to, uh, I seem to have been doing a lot better as of late. I’m happy about that, the fight is a semifinal fight; it’s not the finals yet.
Host: Oh no, that’s right you’re fighting to get into the finals. If you win this fight then you’re in the finals. Yeah, well, like I said I don’t think that is going to be too big of a hassle bro I’ve got you in the finals and I actually have you facing off against the champ before too long.
Brett Cooper: Oh, well thank you.
Host: No doubt man. And you know the one thing that I always love to talk to guys about when it comes to the Bellator promotion in whole is this tournament format. Because I think this is a different monster than anybody has ever dealt with, unless you’ve been in a tournament format itself before. You know like a guy like Douglas Lima this is his second time ending up in the finals, and last year he went through it as well. For you how much do you like the tournament format?
Brett Cooper: You know I think the tournament is great, in that you really earn you’re spot in getting a title shot. I was talking to a guy the other day and he was like what do you think is the difference between UFC and Bellator. I said well, Bellator is kind of a sports organization, and UFC seems to be becoming a spectacle. You know because the UFC is about pay-per-views and the being loud and talking a lot of smack, and Bellator is about earning your spot. Whether you talk a lot of smack, you win a tournament you get a title shot. It really depends solely on your performance not so much on your gift of the gab or trying to promote yourself it’s more of from an athletic stand point.
Host: Yeah, and I completely understand where you’re coming and I agree with that. Chael Sonnen actually came under a lot of heat for losing to Anderson Silva and then talking his way into the Jon Jones fight and coaching against Jon Jones on this season of the Ultimate Fighter. And Denny and Drew can both attest, and I think all of our listeners can too, I think every single week I say that Bellator is my favorite promotion in the world. And the reason why is you get to see quality matchups, you know what I’m saying? Like I don’t think you can honestly look at a Bellator card and say they’re doing this for numbers or there doing it for that I mean they put on wars and its total match making you know because like you said if a guy doesn’t belong I mean they could have fast tracked King Mo into the tournament finals, same thing with Babalu, I think that’s what really what everybody thought was going to happen that we would see Babalu and King Mo end up fighting for the 205 final. And now neither one of these guys are in there because they got beat by better fighters.
Brett Cooper: Yeah man, the tournament style brings in an interesting kind of turn to is you have fights back to back to back so you know you have to take that into account when you’re fighting. You know you can’t just go and try and have a Wanderlei Silva-Brian Stann fight every fight, you’re going to be retarded by the end of the tournament. It’s real tough I haven’t completed a tournament yet, but last year I fought 3 times in 3 months which is pretty much the same thing. So luckily I’ve had to experience that, but yeah it’s tough man. Yeah and anybody can win you know, and I know Emmanuel well and he pulled it off. People who train with him aren’t really surprised. But it’s you have to earn your spot and I really like that part of it.
Host: No doubt. Training wise how different has this been for you because like you said you fought three times in three months but training for a tournament has to be different too because you don’t know who your opponent is until after they win their fight as opposed to signing a deal where you know who you’re going to fight.
Cooper: Yeah well considering that there’s brackets would be the only part that would make it different than for me fighting three times in three months without having a deal. So, I would kind of have an idea of who possibly I would be fighting. The training kind of, when you have fights that close there’s not really enough time to peak and then to come down and peak again. So you kind of have to just peak and maintain and most important thing is to remain healthy and not get injured. You kind of fine tune what you have to do against the guy you’re going against when you’re watching fights. It’s a balancing act, it’s tough, you definitely earn you’re title shot when you win a tournament that’s for sure.
Host: Is it hard on your body to stay peaked like that because I know obviously I’ve heard a lot of fighters say in the past say like when there opponent gets injured and something happens and they push the fight out 2 or 3 weeks and they say hey I already peaked, it’s hard to go from peaked to staying peaked. Or to have to come down for a week and then have to try and peak again I mean is it difficult on your body, does it take a lot more for you to be able to do that?
Cooper: You know it is, it’s really tough there are certain problems that come about that normally don’t come about before other fights. You know, one thing I’ve had trouble with is keeping the appetite. I’ve done some research and you have to supplement your body with certain vitamins. Make sure your training partners know what you’re doing. They know you’re in a tournament and you trust them. That’s always important because you don’t want to go with guys you’ve never been trained before and they might hurt you. Having a good team is a big part in being successful in a consistent fighting schedule. Because they understand what you’re trying to do and accomplish and it’s that much easier to accomplish the goal. I have a great team, Team Rain and Mark Munoz for about two years now maybe a little longer than that. Everything I need help with is there and guys are always willing to sacrifice their time to help me and it’s great.
Host: And that’s something I want to talk about a little later is your team and all the help you get from those guys. I talked to a lot of guys that go inside the ultimate fighter house and have been on the show and the one thing I think the revolving question is “would you go back and do it again” and the answer we hear a lot of times is “you know I would but only if I had to” so for you, with the tournament format. We see a guy like Douglas Lima go back in and a guy like Ben Saunders go back in. Is this something you would want to do again or would you rather have fights periodically throughout the year and being able to go through a full fight camp end the fight camp and then stop fighting for a while and then go back into camp. Or have you gotten used to the madness that is the Bellator tournament?
Cooper: I like eating good food and enjoying myself sometimes as much as anybody else. So I guess I’m with the guys that would only do this if I had to. It’s not something that I like doing per se but it’s my job so I do it. But fighting back to back…sometimes you want to eat a cookie or brownies. Drink a beer, eat a pizza but you don’t have it. It really makes you appreciate certain things that people take for granted. Drinking water, especially dropping weight. You really appreciate water when it comes to that. I definitely wouldn’t, if I didn’t have to I wouldn’t want to do it again.
Host: Alright guys, we’ve got Brad Cooper here with us on BJPENN.com talking about Bellator and him being in the tournament this year. Before I turn things over to my co-host Danny Hodge. For you, what has been the best part and worst part about being a part of this tournament? Would you say that at this point right now you have a favorite and least favorite part about it?
Cooper: The best part would be consistent fights, making money and moving your way up. The worst part would be not being able to have fun in-between fights I guess. Like I said I like to enjoy myself sometimes and it’s not really a luxury you can afford with the time constraint. But yeah, I would say that’s the best and the worst. The money is the best and the fights and the worst is not being able to indulge in certain things you would normally be able to do.
Host: No doubt about it. That schedule is insane; we’ve talked about the tournament format so much on this show. If you just keep winning, there’s always another fight right around the corner. It just seems like a tremendous amount of stress on the body and mind. Obviously fighting is really mental as well as physical. Let’s talk about your change of strategy. Obviously you’re a banger man, you’re finish a lot of your fights. 11 knockouts. Couple subs out of your 18 wins. You’ve said recently that you’ve had to think about a need to change of strategy. And not come out looking to knock guy’s heads off. How do you resist the temptation to do that and obviously in the semifinals and your next fight, there is a potential match up in the finals against Doug Marshall. We saw what happened to Wanderlei Silva and Stann last night. SO how to you keep that mentality of discipline and get that fight and not get in the pocket and just throw down?
Cooper: Yeah, that all comes with training and just consistency to do that. The way I explain to people, being a banger seems very attractive to the fans and you may have a few highlight reels. It’s kind of like being a homerun hitter, you hit a lot of homeruns but you may not have the best batting average because you’re just always swinging for the fence. Also, it’s not good in the long run. Guys that bang all the time…it’s just not a smart way to compete all the time in my opinion. The fans are getting more educated and wrestling is such a powerful thing. If you can control where the fight goes, take him down to the ground and pound but you can still make it exciting with that. Don’t just lay on him you know? It becomes more of a matter of being intelligent and longevity and being better. Because anyone can sit in the bucket and bang. That doesn’t take super technical skills. There is technique to it but its not top level stuff. That’s pretty much what it came down to, being better. Sometimes there will be exchanges, you can’t get away from that it’s the nature of the sport. You want to be smart. I’m 25 I’m trying to figure it out, I’ve got about 10 more years. I want to have my own business, have my own gym and raise my kids. I don’t want to be all punch drunk. It’s a wise way to think in my opinion.
Host: No doubt. The fans like to see a big knock out. It’s exciting but as a hardcore fan, and I am a fan at the end of the day. It’s hard to watch a guy 25 years old. Stephan Struve is 25 years old too and that knock out he suffered last night was really brutal. And that’s not the first one. When I watch a fight and it ends that way, I’m thinking about the cumulative damage to a guy like that who continues to get shot like that. At the end of the day we want to see our favorite fighters go competing in 5 years and just fade away into the sunset.
Cooper: If you want to look at boxing Arturo Gotti and Nikki Wood there great to watch for the fans but both of those guys were never really at Floyd Maywheather’s level. That level to take that World Title. They were exciting. But if you want to be exciting and be that guy that promoters like, it just doesn’t seem the best way to be to me. It doesn’t have any good results to do that. Guys fight to be like that, a good example is Ryan Standlander. I can’t say I don’t enjoy watching it. I mean I do but I kind of cringe because I understand the effects of what can happen from that kind of fight. I’d rather just watch Michal Chandler because he mixes it up real well and uses the grappling real well. It’s part of the game. If guys just want to sit there and bang they mind as well go box. Why punch each other in the head with 4 ounce gloves when you can do it with 10 ounce gloves. It just doesn’t make sense to me. Why be MMA if you’re not going to grapple. It just seems stupid.
Host: Yeah and especially in the tournament format. Because at the end of the day you still have to think about that next fight. Once you advance, you have to be healthy enough to step in there and take that next fight. So what are your thoughts on the semifinals? Was there any surprises? Anton talked earlier about some of the surprises in other weight divisions like King Mo getting knocked out. There’s always tournament favorites when the tournaments kick off in Belator. It seems like there’s always at least one really big upset in each weight division. What do you think about the semifinals and how everything played out in the 185 division that obviously you are in the semis?
Cooper: I would say I was always into upsets, I was watching the fights in the locker room and I was like ohhh you know. But to me I’m never really surprised when it comes to that stuff because I guess it only takes one you know. When Spang was going toe to toe with Marshall it’s a risky game when you play that game, and he caught him with a good one and whamo. But the guy I’m fighting Cramer and Rogers I’ve noticed in the past that Rogers seems to get real tired. Which happened in that fight, I think people had Rogers as the favorite but Cramer proved him wrong and showed he’s tough and here to stay. The other guy, the Danish kid, Mikkel Parlo vs. Sultan Aliev that was one I didn’t know because I’ve trained with Mikkel before and he’s tough. But he’s a real young kid he’s 22 so he’ll get better and he’ll learn from that. All in all I wasn’t too surprised, it’s like you said in this tournament there has been so many so-called upsets that it’s hard to really kind of fine tune the betting odds. I’m not too surprised; I’m never really surprised when I see this stuff happen, because I know the possibilities.
Host: Alright guys you’re listening to BJPENN.com Brett Cooper talking about his Bellator fight coming up this Thursday in Temecula California. I wanted to talk to you because you not too far from Temecula, you’re down there in Southern California. How many friends and family you have coming up for this fight since it’s not too far from home for you?
Cooper: I think we have around 40.
Host: Oh, Damn. You are going to have a cheering squad man.
Cooper: Yeah, we expected to have more but it was short notice. Three weeks, if I had more time it would have been probably 100.
Host: Holy Cow, does that kind of play into, I don’t want to say strategy because it’s obviously not strategy, but does that play into the, I guess, the extra for you? Does that help out; does that sway things for you? Like do you feel like you have more confidence going into the fight when you have a lot of people in the crowd pulling for you?
Cooper: No, it makes no difference to me. I don’t care if they come or not. I tell them that. I don’t want to sound mean it’s just not something that matters to me because when you’re a competitor and you have to travel places the people you know that support you, support you either way. I’m happy they come, I appreciate it. I appreciate the support, but it doesn’t make a difference to me.
Host: Alright, does it make a difference to you where you fight? I mean at this point in your career I would say that you’re a vet, you’re not a rookie to the sport anymore, is it easier for you to fight closer to home or would you prefer to have this fight to go down on the east coast for you?
Cooper: I like to fight where they have a lot of restaurants where we can eat before the fight. I don’t like to fight where there’s no, where there’s a hotel and one restaurant and the food sucks. I guess that would be my main thing.
Host: What about Temecula bro? Because I am going to be there on Thursday, Drew and our producer, myself are going to be going out there to cover the event do some interviews. Hopefully we can get some time with you on camera as well. Are we going to be able to find some places to eat in Temecula?
Cooper: You know I’ve looked at a few places and they seem to have quite a few restaurants. I’ve only been there once. I’ve actually fought at Pechanga before; they have restaurants inside the casino. I think they have sushi spots, seems like they have some pretty good restaurants around there.
Host: Is that favorite pre-fight meal the all you can eat sushi?
Cooper: No, not all you can eat no. I can’t afford that, especially all the soy sauce that they put on that will make you suck up water like crazy. I usually go for the Sara chi bowl or something like that, or sachem and a little bit of rice just to keep me going. And after weigh-ins I’ll probably have pasta.
Host: So even after weigh-ins you don’t go and gorge yourself, because I’ve seen guys go out after weigh-ins and just eat, probably like 5-10 pounds of food. So for you you still keep it light that way you’re not bogged down by a big heavy meal?
Cooper: I eat a lot. I’ll probably eat two meals after weigh-in, but I try to eat I don’t starve myself. I eat all the way up until weigh-in, so the weight that I lose is water weight. Because food doesn’t weigh that much, you can eat a pound of food, and as long as it’s not salty or full of sodium then you can eat and still give your body the energy and get in the sauna and cut some weight. That’s what I usually do. I eat all the way up that way my stomach doesn’t shrink, I’ve had experiences in the past where I’ve starved myself and it didn’t work out real well. Your body just goes into shock and then, it just didn’t work for me. I usually eat breakfast and then a really small lunch and then weigh-ins and then 2 meals. I kind of have a normal, try to keep it on a normal food level of three meals a day. Even after weigh-ins. It’s mostly liquid that makes you heavy, that you get back after weigh-ins. I’m more thirsty than I am hungry.
Host: It just amazes me, because cutting weight is such a science. It’s one of those things that if you’ve never done it or done it your whole life it’s crazy opposed to guys like yourself who have done it for so long. I mean it’s almost like a routine right?
Cooper: Yeah, it never gets old, it always sucks.
Host: I think every fighter in the world would agree with you, I’ve never heard a fighter say my favorite part of camp was cutting weight. I don’t ever hear anyone say that.
Cooper: Never. It always sucks and it’s always like you’re in the sauna and it’s like, or whatever you do to cut weight, man it just sucks. But it’s all part of the game. That’s where you earn your money.
Host: Brett what I’ve seen over the years, I remember back in the day when this sport first got started, my dad was fighting and this was 10 years ago, there weren’t really guys cutting weight you’d see wrestlers do it but it wasn’t what it is today. Now it’s almost like a bonding experience between you and your brothers. Whoever is in your camp, whoever is in your corner, whoever is there with you at the hotel, do you feel like it’s that way? Do you think that you bond and get closer with your teammates? Because a lot of times we see guys inside the sauna with their teammates saying Hey I’m making the weight cut with my boy I’m showing him support I’m in here with him. Is it a bonding experience, as gay as that might sound? I hope that doesn’t sound too gay, I’ll say no homo, is it a bonding experience for you guys?
Cooper: I mean yeah, any kind of training where somebody’s helping you out or any kind of obstacle you kind of have to conquer and somebody is helping you and they don’t need to, is always a great thing because it shows you that they really care. Because it’s not like they are getting anything out of it, there are sweating. They get to drink water, of course, but you know they’re sweating and just sitting there for you, so you really know that they care. I try to make people with me get in the sauna, I just make them time me so they can tell me when it’s one minute, tell me when it’s two minutes, I want to know how long I have in here I don’t want to just be sitting in there and just “guesstimating” how much time I have left while I sit there. It’s kind of a bonding experience I think the whole trip is kind of like a bonding experience, because it’s usually just you and maybe a couple guys in the hotel. Not much to do maybe watch TV and just BS the whole time, and kind of just hang out until its fight time. I think pretty much the whole experience is a bonding experience, not just cutting weight.
Host: No doubt. Alright Brett well our time has come to an end my friend. I first and foremost want to say thank you very much from everyone here at Fist-Ta-Cuff radio and BJPENN.com for giving us sometime tonight, I can’t wait to catch up with you here on Wednesday or Thursday down in Kamecula. Before we let you go though, it’s kind of a tradition here in the barbershop, and we give you an opportunity to thank any sponsors or partners. Give a shout out to wife kids, whatever the case may be. Without further ado the microphone is yours go ahead and do your thing.
Cooper: I want to thank my gym, Team Rain, Mark Munoz, my buddy Vince Ortiz, my manager Mike Kogan. My wife Lana she does everything for me. My six-month old baby Penelope, I love them to death and I’m doing it for them, and to all the sponsors that have helped me out. I think Future Legends, and I forget a couple other guys my bad. Yeah the main thing is I want to thank my family and friends, and everyone that’s helped me out. I really appreciate it and thank you Fist-Ta-Cuff radio for the good interview and hope to see you guys on Wednesday.
Host: Absolutely man. I guarantee you will see us we’ll be running into you over there at Pechanga, and for everybody who doesn’t know Bellator 92 it goes down, Brett Cooper Main Event looking to earn that spot in the Bellator finals and best of luck brother. Can’t wait to watch you throw down in person.
Cooper: Thanks guys take care.
Host: Alright man have a great night.
Cooper: You too.
Bellator 92 is scheduled to take place March 7th at the Pechanga Resort and Casino in Temecula, California.
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