Jackson is the type of guy to make lemonade when handed
While most fighters would be annoyed by a late change in opponent,
Bellator MMA welterweight champion Jackson was
ecstatic to hear that he’d be facing Professional Fighters League star Ray Cooper
III in place of the injured Magomed
PFL vs. Bellator on Feb. 24.
“The reason I got excited is because I believe [Cooper] is a way
more complete fighter than Magomedkerimov,” Jackson said on the PFL
vs. Bellator Media Call on Friday. “I strive on adversity, and I
know what this guy can do. I look at him like a young Mike Tyson,
so it makes me work even harder.”
Jackson is on the best run of his career, having won his last seven
fights that culminated with the capture of the Bellator 170-pound
crown. Jackson topped the likes of Benson
Henderson, Paul Daley and
Lima to get a crack at Yaroslav
Amosov’s belt, and he unseated the unbeaten Ukrainian to win
the throne at Bellator 301 in 2023.
Unfortunately for the 33-year-old known as “The Ass-Kicking
Machine,” Jackson still feels slighted by the masses and hasn’t
felt the spoils of being a world champion. He hopes to change that
with a win over the dangerous “Bradda Boy.”
“I’ve watched this guy fight and seen what he’s accomplished in the
PFL in such a short time because he’s still young,” Jackson noted.
“It’s going to be awesome putting a name like Ray Cooper
III amongst the rest of the names I’ve collected.”
At 31, two-time PFL welterweight tourney winner Cooper has amassed
an impressive resume of his own. With wins over Rory
Curtis and Magomedkerimov, Cooper is one of the most decorated
fighters in the PFL’s history. While he won the 2019 and 2021
brackets, the Hawaiian has dropped two of his last three outings.
In his last time out, Cooper struggled and ultimately failed to
reach the middleweight limit against 40-year-old Derek
Brunson, and he suffered a decision loss to the aging vet.
Cooper claimed he was not seriously training when he got the call
to face Jackson, but he was open to the opportunity. The Hawaiian
understands that he is racing against the clock and that a win over
Jackson could provide the momentum his career needs.
“I still fight the same, but everybody just forgets when you lose
one time, and they just throw you off to the side,” Cooper
explained. “As an athlete and a true competitor, you believe in
yourself and don’t need anybody else to believe in you. I had one
bad night in November, but I’m going to get right back at it.”
Neither fighter is interested in the concocted rivalry between PFL
and Bellator fighters. Jackson is a rising champion looking to
stake his claim as the best welterweight in the world, while Cooper
wants to showcase the gas still left in his tank. To accommodate
Cooper taking the fight on late notice, the promotion bumped the
match from welterweight to a catchweight of 182 pounds.
“I would rather have a longer training camp, but it doesn’t
matter,” Cooper expressed. “I’m coming back to right where I left
off when I won the championship. I’m excited to face Jason, the
Bellator champion because I know he’s tough.”
“This is like an audition or a job interview,” Jackson replied. “I
have to prove to these guys that I am who I am, which is ‘The
Ass-Kicking Machine.’ People always laugh at that name, but I
always have to prove that’s who I am. Don’t let the smile fool