Cooper back in the cage on Sunday

2011-01-25 00:00

PROFESSIONAL mixed martial arts fighter Mike Cooper returns to the cage for what is expected to be a lightweight war against the dangerous Mike Hawkey in the co-main event of Fight Force Aftermath at the Durban Exhibition Centre on Sunday.

The 26-year-old, who trains at in Amanzimtoti, is coming off a dominant first-round TKO win over Bonga Hadebe at Fight Force Night of the Champions at the same venue last November and is riding a three-fight winning streak.

Cooper’s calm demeanour inside the cage has been a feature of his relatively short fighting career, and under the tutelage of highly regarded trainer Morne Swanepoel he is confident that the game plan for this particular fight will see his hand raised in victory come Sunday night.

“My strength is to fight strategically and take my opponent to where he is most uncomfortable. For this fight, against a very skilled boxer, I obviously don’t want to turn it into a boxing match,” Cooper told The Witness.

With the sport of mixed martial arts still in its infancy in South Africa compared to its status in the United States and Asia, budding fighters such as Cooper need to work in full-time jobs and allocate time for training in the evenings and on weekends.

“It’s borderline impossible,” Cooper says of the juggling act. “Certainly, a lot of good training sessions have been lost because I’ve arrived feeling wiped out after a long day at the office. I am hanging in there, but it is extremely difficult to be full of energy, especially seeing as our training sessions are held in the evenings after work.”

Despite this drawback, Cooper says he trains a minimum of 12 hours a week and has focused on endurance for his upcoming fight. As a successful consulting engineering geologist, Cooper also helps shed the age-old stigma that fighters are uneducated outcasts.

Three of Cooper’s and Team MMA Fighter stable-mates — Dane de Klerk, Craig “Nemo” Ninow and Zander Prinsloo — are also on Sunday’s card. De Klerk will square off against Allan Nichols, Ninow will face Bradley Mader and Prinsloo will take on Hector Britz.

Swanepoel says that his fighters have been training six days a week for an average of four hours a day in preparation for Sunday’s event.

“All our boys are fit and ready to do what they do best — win,” emphasised Swanepoel.

Fellow Team MMA Fighter members Nelson Feteirra, Stanton Oosthuizen and Nick Spiller will be in action at next Saturday’s Megalodon Fight Club event at the Olive Convention Centre in Durban.

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