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Ray Cooper...  Superbrawl Participant... Ranked 4th in the world by Professional Shooto Japan...   Fierce Opponent.  Feared Striker...

Ray Cooper... Family man.  Devoted Christian. Verizon Line Tech for Military Bases.

"Okay, so which one of these guys are we having lunch with today, the fighter or this family man?", I ask.  "Both, you idiot, they're the same guy." answers Doc Choy.

Okay, so maybe that's not exactly what happened the afternoon before we met with Ray Cooper and his family.  Surprisingly down to earth, low key, and easy to talk to, Ray and his wife Monica shared their visions of past and future with Hawaii411 over lunch.

Hawaii411: How did you get started in mixed martial arts (MMA)?
Ray: I first started helping one of my friends prepare for his fight and I worked out with him.  It was one of the first Futurebrawls.  He asked me if I wanted to try.  At first I was hesitant, but I went, and that’s how I started.

Hawaii411: When did you first start to realize you could really excel at this sport?
Ray: I started, not at my weight class (170 lbs) but at 200 and under, so I fought guys heavier than me, and I could handle myself.  I was the aggressor at that weight, so I could drop weight; I knew I could be one of the top fighters.

Hawaii411: When you first started, did you start out wanting to be a champion, or was it more for recreation?
Ray: When I first started, I never really thought about that.  I just wanted to minister the Gospel and to show everybody what God has done in my life.  One way was to make a shirt, “Jesus is Lord,” and wear it out into the ring and glorify God.  That was my main reason why I started, and all the other stuff (success) just started happening.

Hawaii411: You wearing the “Jesus is Lord” shirt was the start of the name “Jesus is Lord” for your team, wasn’t it?
Ray: Yeah, unknowingly, that was the start.  I never meant it to be that way, but God just formed it that way.

Hawaii411: What kind of fighting background do you have?

Ray: I used to play around with boxing.  Me and my friend Dane used to go to the gym during summertime and work out with Al Silva.  That and wrestling (in high school).

Hawaii411: I heard that “Jesus is Lord” is pretty much a self-taught team, how does that work with out having an instructor?

Ray: We learn through experience and watching other fighters, and we pick up on their good points.  We help each other out in the gym.  From past fights we remember what and what not to do.  We watch a lot of video.  Mostly we rely on God.  I believe that God created the martial arts.  Man never conjured up that idea.  I believe that God inspired some guy to fight in combat.  I try to lean on the Lord to reveal what kind of moves and techniques work best for me.

Hawaii411: Is it to your advantage that you don’t train in any one style?
Ray: I believe you have to learn all aspects of the game.  In the beginning you could get by with only jiu-jitsu, but every two or three years the sport evolves.  Now you won’t come across any fighter that only does jiu-jitsu.  They have learned how to strike and grapple.  You have to know how to do each one.

Hawaii411: What are your strengths in the ring?
Ray: I know my strength is striking, pretty much stand-up, but I know I can grapple with the best.  I like to just stand up and strike.

Hawaii411: Who was your toughest opponent so far?
Ray: I would say, Frank Trigg.  I fought him in WEF in Georgia.  He was undefeated (22-0).  He was the best in his weight class.

Hawaii411: Who would you like to fight?
Ray: Frank again, someday.  I know I will someday our paths will cross again.  There’s the Shooto title.  Pretty much whoever I have to fight to get that title… There’s (Hayato "Mach") Sakurai, there’s (Tetsuji) Kato, I want to fight him again.  There’s Silva (Anderson Silva, the top ranked Shooto fighter) too.

Hawaii411: Fight enthusiasts say that you are very good with your hands, and have a style that would be well suited for the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championships).  Is the UFC a goal for you?
Ray: If it comes, it comes, but right now I really want the Shooto title.

Hawaii411: Do you have any goals past the Shooto title?
Ray: I just want to fight the best in the world, and be the best 170-pound fighter.

Hawaii411: Who do you look up to in the fight world?
Ray: Roy Jones, because of he’s just at a different level (above the rest) in his weight class.

Hawaii411: Are you afraid that you might seriously injure someone else?
Ray: No, I’m not afraid to hurt anybody.  We pray before our fights for our opponents - that they can continue to fight the next day. 

Hawaii411: Monica, when Ray first started, did you say to yourself, “What are you getting into?”
Monica: At first, I didn’t agree with it, just because of the hours and time it took, but God spoke to me, and I realized that this was something bigger than just me.  A lot of people are affected, and a lot of people have changed their lives.  After the first fight, I was at peace with it.

Hawaii411: Monica, do you every get scared that Ray may get injured in one of his matches?
Monica: No.  I know he trains hard.  If I knew he wasn’t training hard and wasn't into what he was doing in the gym, then I would get concerned.  I help make sure that everything, his mind and body, is ready.  If I don’t see that, then I have to (laughs) get on him to train.

Hawaii411: Monica, have you ever thought of training?
Monica: No (laughs)

Hawaii411: As a mother, could you see your kids fighting competitively?
Monica: Yes, I can see them doing it later on, but I want to make sure that we set a good foundation for them.  I want to make sure that they don’t get hurt.  My husband will set a foundation for them to have opportunities when they're through with fighting, so that they have integrity.  That’s what our lifestyle is about.

Hawaii411: Ray, How long do you think you could last as a competitive fighter?
Ray: Maybe ten, fifteen more years.  We have this one guy, Steven, who’s 36 years old and ranked #7 in the world.

Hawaii411: Is “Jesus is Lord” affiliated with a church, or are you just Christians who train together?
Ray: “Jesus is Lord” all are part of the same church, but we are not an organization with the church.  You could say it’s a separate ministry with the blessings of our Pastor.

Hawaii411: Muhammad Ali, Evander Holyfield, and even Reggie White use sport as a vehicle to preach religion.  Do people have a problem with the association of your sport with religion, because of the brutal nature of it?
Ray: Yeah, always... Because this sport is young, people don’t really see it as a sport yet.  They just see it as fighting, as guys who don’t train and guys off the street who just fight.  Slowly, people are seeing and learning that this is a professional sport.  It’s just like football... It’s very physical, but it’s a sport.

Hawaii411: “Jesus is Lord” is known as a real family operation.  How does family add to your training?
Ray: Training takes a lot of time, and if my family can be with me at training it doesn’t take away from my family time.  The children see our practices, and are always running around.

Hawaii411: How has the team aspect of “Jesus is Lord” helped you?
Ray: It’s helped in so many ways – building character as a person, as a father, and a husband.  It’s helped me overcome many fears and doubts.

Hawaii411: Sometimes there are problems with people learning the Martial Arts without learning the discipline behind it.  Do you think there is a problem with lack of discipline within the sport?
Ray: I can’t speak for any of the other teams, but I think there should be less rivalries.  You can compete against each other, but the sport turns bad when there’s fighting outside of the ring.

Hawaii411: There is a rumor that “Jesus is Lord” is going through some changes with some people leaving.  Is that true?
Ray: Well, just certain individuals decided to leave.  It’s just a matter of different vision.

Hawaii411: But the core is still there?
Ray: “Jesus is Lord” is still going strong.

Hawaii411: Tell us a little about the fight you’re promoting.
Ray: It’s the AFC (Amateur Fighting Competition).  It’s just stand up fighting (no grappling/wrestling).  I want to give an opportunity to amateur fighters.  I want to give them a something to look forward to, a vision, not just in the fighting, but training to get in shape... just to challenge themselves.  They can look forward to competing instead of just training.  A lot of guys want to get into mixed martial arts, but are not ready to enter the whole thing, so this is just another avenue into competing.

Hawaii411: That’s great that you can provide the fighters with another venue to test their skills.  Would you compare it to a Tough man competition?
Ray: Yeah.  They’ll have gloves and headgear.  It’ll be tournament style with two weight divisions, single elimination with three, one-minute rounds.  No kicks, but spinning backhand is allowed.

Hawaii411: Is this your first venture into promoting?
Ray: Yes, but I’m getting a lot of help from my brother-in-law (Brennan Kamaka, promoter of Warrior’s Quest events).

Hawaii411: Do you think fight promotion may be an avenue for you to take down the road?
Ray: Maybe, I’m not too sure at this point.  I’ll try this out and see how it goes..

Hawaii411: How about being a trainer or an instructor?
Ray: Maybe more for my children.  I can see myself as an instructor/trainer, but I want to train my children first.

Hawaii411: Speaking of your children, do you let them watch the fights?
Ray: We let them watch to a point, but one thing we don't let them watch is WWF.  That stuff is R-rated nowdays with all the women and language.  It's just ridiculous.

Hawaii411: Where do you want to see mixed martial arts go in Hawaii?
Ray: I want to see it go where boxing is now.  This sport is just as physical if not more physical, and we train just as hard.  I think we should be recognized just as much as them.

Hawaii411: Why do you think a small state like Hawaii does so well worldwide in fighting?
Ray: I don’t know, I guess we’re just blessed with talent.  The mixture of cultures just brings out the talent.

Hawaii411: Mixed martial arts has been slammed by the media for being too brutal, what do you say to those critics?
Ray: I don’t think it’s brutal.  I think boxing is more brutal because of the amount of blows you take in a fight.  You have to knock the guy out.  We have submission, where you can tap-out.

Hawaii411: Do you hope to be a mentor for young fighters and show them that you can be religious, be a gentleman, and still be a great fighter?
Ray: I want to get across to the local boys that we aren’t limited because we’re on an island, and we have to think more highly of ourselves because we can compete with the best in the world.  Trust in God first and follow your dreams.  Things will work out. 

Hawaii411: Is there anything else you want Hawaii to know?
Ray: It’s the same thing I always say, ‘Trust in God and get to know Jesus Christ.’

411 Conclusion:  Ray and Monica Cooper - Two words: Super People.  They not only talk the talk, but walk the walk when it comes to fair play, sportsmanship, morals and values.  At a time when the TV and Sports Arenas are full of monstrous egos, rampant substance and wife abusers, trashy talk and trashier women, the Coopers are a much needed breath of fresh air.  Hawaii needs more representation like Ray - He's cool, he's calm, he chooses his words carefully and doesn't shoot his mouth off... And most importantly, he's out there trying to do good things for his community, his sport, and his church.  Hawaii411  gives a 411 salute to Bradda Ray Cooper, an extraordinarily positive local role model.

THE COMPETITION: Please come out to the competition on Saturday, February 2.  Support the local talent and the visions, hopes, and desires that Bradda Ray is attempting to share with the Hawaii athletes.  You'll have a great time and will be provided with a great show.  Advance tickets are $25 and $27 at the door.  Or, you can go ringside for $40.  Please visit www.ticketplushawaii.com or call 526-4400.  You can also get tickets at the Blaisdell Box Office or any Foodland/Sack and Save.

For more information, please contact Ray at 696-5502, or email LinebredLLC@hawaii411.com.

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