Interview by Nicholas Armitage
Photography by Scott Hirano
If you don’t know who this man is yet, you will soon. His name is Chris Cope and he’s about to become famous.
He is one of 14 contestants who made the cut for the latest season of The Ultimate Fighter, the UFC’s runaway hit reality show. The show premieres March 30th, with an estimated audience of three million viewers.
We caught up with Chris before he got swept away on the talk show circuit. Here’s what he had to say:
RIS: You just finished competing on The Ultimate Fighter. How was it?
CC: In the words of Charles Dickens, it was the best of times; it was the worst of times. I had a lot of fun, met some great guys, had awesome coaching and training, but it was intense. I had a mike on me everywhere I went and cameras were all over as well, even in the bathrooms. The lights were constantly on and it was almost impossible to sleep. There was no contact allowed with the outside world for 6 weeks, no Internet, no Facebook, nothing. And the only books you were allowed to read were the Bible and the Koran.
RIS: Sounds like a sensory deprivation experiment. How did you handle it?
CC: I just looked deep into myself and asked how badly I wanted it. My choices were simple after that.
RIS: You mentioned in conversation you tried out 4 times before for the show. Why did you want it so bad?
CC: For me, The Ultimate Fighter reality show is a great way to get to the UFC if you can win it. And the UFC is definitely the best of the best. I’m like a hunter going on Safari and the UFC is the biggest lion in the jungle. It’s up to me if I can bag it or not.
RIS: But why MMA in general? What’s the attraction?
CC: When I was younger, I trained extensively in traditional Martial Arts. I still love them to this day, but just didn’t feel they allowed me the opportunity to really test myself. MMA lets me do that. It’s a true gut check sport, where someone is trying to smash y our face in or break your arm. To deal with that, you have to master your fears, face the man across the cage from you and impose your will on him. That’s a test I willingly impose on myself.
RIS: Gotcha. So you’re on some kind of Vision Quest?
CC: The Bible says that “As Iron Sharpens Iron, So One Man Sharpens Another.” I’m trying to grow as a human being, evolve myself however possible. And fighting helps me to do that. Some people have meditation; I have fists in my face.
RIS: We’ve recently seen another quote: “Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard”. Those seem to be words you live by.
CC: Yeah, that’s a great quote. I’ve never been the most talented guy in the room, so I’ve always known I had to outwork everyone. That’s why wrestlers like Jon Fitch from the UFC are my heroes. They’re grinders. Just everyday guys who bust their asses and make it happen. That’s how I would like to be remembered as well.
RIS: So where do you go from here?
CC: I’ve always had 3 goals for myself in Mixed Martial Arts. One of them is to fight for the UFC, the second is to fight in Japan, and the third is to hold a belt in a major organization. I’m going to keep working until I get to where I want or die trying.
RIS: Seems like you’re on your way to a successful fighting career.
CC: I don’t look at it as a career. I’ve always said I’m a Martial Artist who just fights professionally. For my actual career, I plan to go to law school and become a Sports Attorney who can help out fighters like myself one day.
RIS: Good luck with that. It’s refreshing to know you want to give back. By the way, what’s up with Tony Robbins? We heard you follow him pretty closely.
CC: I like what Tony has to say. He’s all about self-empowerment, self-improvement, taking action and changing your life for the better. Who wouldn’t want that? And the truth is that it’s achievable for everyone. They just need to believe in their dreams and have the discipline to act on them.
RIS: Words of wisdom from Chris Cope. Maybe you’re going to become the next Chuck Norris and people can come up with one-liners about you and put your face on t-shirts.
CC: Haha. That would be funny, but no one can replace Chuck. He’s one of a kind.
RIS: We like the humility. If you don’t want to promote yourself, is there anyone you do want to give props to?
CC: Absolutely. First, I want to thank my parents. Without them I would be nothing, literally. I also want to thank all the people over the years who helped me get to where I’m at right now. You know who you are. And I especially want to thank my team at The Arena MMA Gym. The guys there are great and the coaching is phenomenal. My Coach Pat Speight is going to be the next Greg Jackson, mark my words. And my manager there (and Coach as well) Jeff Clark has been a huge help with my career. Without guys like them you just can’t make it these days. Fighting truly is a team sport and I’m really glad to everyone at The Arena on my side.
Awesome Chris, you’ve been great. We wish you good fortune on your journey. We’ll see you again on the other side.