Bellator's Brett Cooper: You don't get 'amazing magical powers' signing with UFC
Brett CooperÂ might have won two of three rounds against Bellator middleweight champ Alexander Shlemenko, but that’s no concession he wants to take.
“A loss is a loss to me, and it’s disappointing,” Cooper told MMAjunkie. “So I’m looking to get back to winning and smashing some people. I guess, really, if you think about it, I might’ve been one round away from being world champion, and it was on short notice.”
Cooper is at least another six rounds away from getting what would be his third crack at Shlemenko following two decision losses to the Russian champ, but he is not giving up on his dream to win Bellator gold.
Although he recently opened a gym in Southern California, he said owning his own training facility has focused his efforts.
“Opening my own gym gives me less padding,” he said. “The thing is, you can only really get two to three hours per day of hard training. You might be able to do that for six days a week max, but even that’s pushing it a little.
“People might say I’m not focusing on my career because of this, but trust me â€“ I have the fire. I’ve been doing this for almost nine years now and I’ll hang ‘em up if I ever lose it. I’ll probably be done by the time I’m 35, though.”
Now 26, Cooper has nine years until he reaches his finish line, however many rounds that is.
“My wife and family always stand by me,” he said. “I’m sure it’s scary to watch someone you love go in and fight. It is for me when I go in and corner people. It’s pretty stressful. But my wife loves and supports me no matter what, and that means a lot.
“Coming home after a tough fight and seeing my wife and daughter, going to the park or watching movies together, it does put things in perspective. I’d still really rather win though.”
Cooper’s opportunity to turn things around comes on Friday at Bellator 114, where he meets UFC vet Kendall Grove in the semifinals of the promotion’s Season 9 middleweight tournament. It’s his third appearance in the Viacom-owned promotion’s competitions and his 11th overall fight in the circular cage, and he still carries the flag for its brand of MMA.
“This whole thing where people think fighters have all these amazing magical powers when you sign with the UFC and they’re so much better than everyone else, â€¦ the fans need to realize: There are top quality guys in every promotion,” he said. “You don’t sign with the biggest organization and enjoy a 30 percent increase in your skill level. It doesn’t work like that.
“The fans need to start studying the sport more and realize that there are other top guys. Bellator wasn’t in the World MMA Awards or whatever and I’m kind of sick of stuff like that. It’s a bunch of crap. I’m not trying to burn any bridges and I don’t have any problems with the UFC, but the fans need to understand and respect that there are skilled fighters everywhere. It has nothing to do with the logo on the banner or the piece of paper you sign.”
Bellator 114 takes place at Maverik Center in West Valley, Utah. The event’s main card, which features a middleweight title bout between Shlemenko and Season 8 tourney winner Brennan Ward, airs live on Spike TV following prelims on Spike.com.
Grove, who won “The Ultimate Fighter 3,” makes his first tournament appearance after beating fellow UFC vet Joe Vedepo in a non-tournament bout in his octagon debut. After a tour of several international promotions, where he earned a 6-4 record, he is looking to revive his cage career.
“He’s got good all-around skills and knowledge of the game,” Cooper said. “Good technique on the ground. He’s well rounded, you know? He’s no joke. He’s there to fight. I was talking about ‘having that fire’ earlier and I’m not sure he’s still has that anymore to be honest.
“This sport can really take a toll on you. Even in the height of his career, I still think I’d beat him. I think I’m going to win this fight by knockout. I think I’m better, and I’m going to finish him.”
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