In July 22 IssueBy Derek AaronTimes Journal Sports Editor
“I feel at home in the cage,” said Josh Cooper, Russell County's professional mixed martial arts fighter. "I'm going to take this as far as it will let me."
Cooper joined the professional ranks of MMA earlier this year and has lived up to the hype so far, going 2-0 in his first two bouts, with his latest win in a featured match at Applebee's Park in Lexington.
“I started fighting back in 2007,” Cooper said. His first fight as an amateur was a loss by armbar in the first round, but that didn't dampen Cooper's future in the sport.
He went on to go 8-2 in the amateur ranks and was affectionately given the nickname "The Pitbull" by one of his promoters late in his amateur career.
As an amateur he held title belts for both 145 and 155 pound weight divisions in the Southern Kentucky Combat League before turning pro.
Cooper, who is a self-described Brazilian jujitsu fighter, began training for fights two and a half years ago under Instructor Darren Durham, a black belt out of Somerset.
He currently trains for MMA five days a week. He travels to Somerset and to Reaction MMA in Lexington several times each week as well as completing his training sessions at Club Fit in Russell Springs.
Earlier this year, Cooper also tried out for Xtreme Fighting Championships, one of the leading Mixed Martial Arts Organizations in the United States and made some good contacts. Based out of Tampa, Florida, the XFC has produced fight cards in Florida, Kentucky and Tennessee and airs weekly on HDNet.
"Hopefully I'll be fighting for them by the end of this year," he said. "I'd love to fight in the XFC, UFC or something like that."
He has become close friends with XFC fighter Julio Gallegos, who trains with him in Lexington, and Cooper's agent, Zena Brady, is Gallegos' fiancée. Cooper said he hopes to move to Lexington within the year.
Among the various fighting styles, Cooper faces boxing, kickboxing, muay thai, jujitsu, wrestling, and various other forms of martial arts and he must be prepared for them all.
To maintain a healthy fighting weight, Cooper eats a lot of tuna and chicken to go along with his training, strength and conditioning programs.
"I'm always trying to learn too," Cooper said of his interest in learning new in-ring techniques. "A lot of people just think it is a bloodsport but there is a lot more that goes into it."
He said if he didn't learn new strategies and techniques his opponent would and then would use them against him.
"I try not to let it get in my head," Cooper said about the possibilities of injuries. He has had to give up all other sports to avoid injury as well. "If I get hurt then I don't get paid."
After a few questionable moments at the beginning of his fighting career, his family and friends have been nothing but supportive of the endeavor.
And now all MMA, professional and amateur, are regulated by a state commission, Cooper said. He must undergo a yearly blood test as well as urine tests before each fight to stay legal.
His next professional fight will be against Doug Copher, a Lexington product, at Club Fit's MMA event on July 31.
Cooper will also be selling custom t-shirts featuring his "Pitbull" logo at the July 31 event for $20 each. To pre-order a shirt, you can reach Cooper at 270-585-1750. His sponsors include Reaction MMA, Pro MMA Now, On Point Athletics, Submit Pit, Club Fit, Cosmic, and The Matthew Wellington Group.