” I don’t want to be known as the girl with great boxing, I want to be known as the boxer who transformed into a great mixed martial artist”.
On the rise in the world of Martial Arts is Michigan’s Amanda Cooper, who is known by most as Bobby, which is her middle name. At only 21 she has accomplished a lot but isn’t stopping there as she wants to develop as much as she can and hit the top of the sport. Her martial arts career began at an early age when her Dad, a former boxer himself, got her down to start training with her sisters. Only 11 at the time it was hard to keep her attention but once she got a bit older, she found the gloves again and her natural talent shone through.
“My dad, who was a former boxer and a undefeated boxer in the marines, got me and my two older sisters into boxing just for the self defense and fitness aspects that boxing gives you, but a few months into the training my sisters and I started taking fights. My sisters were great and they really loved the sport, I was so young that it was hard to keep my attention and really learn technique. After a year I had three fights holding a 2-1 record at the age of 11. My sisters moved on to other sports and we all dropped out. It wasn’t until I was 15 years old that I began boxing again. By the time I graduated high school I had won golden gloves two years in a row and I had over 20+ amateur fights all while playing high school sports”.
The golden gloves is something very special to win and shows how much talent and skill someone has in the sport. Amanda pushed on for her amateur boxing days and now boxes at a professional level. Currently she is 1-1 and on Saturday 16th August she got the opportunity to fight at a packed White Sox Field in Chicago. A fantastic moment for everyone. Even though the result didn’t go her way, Amanda performed the best she could.
“Winning the golden gloves was really great, its something to be very proud of and it was a awesome test to see how far I can go in this sport”.
Having great stand up is one of many tools needed to be successful in the world of MMA and it’s always good to know you how power in your hands. Through developing boxing skills it can give you the confidence you need on the feet and it is something which Amanda would take on into her MMA beginnings, which started with her not knowing much about the sport but coming out knowing that she would forever want to compete in the sport.
“After graduating high school, in my first year of college, is when I took my first MMA fight. I actually had no idea what MMA was until my first match. One night at the boxing gym my dad asked me if I wanted to try a MMA fight. I was so against it at first, mainly because i knew nothing about it, but by the end of the night I told my dad that I wanted to try one. The next day he called me and said he signed me up for a MMA match in two weeks. So I continued to train boxing and I won with a TKO. It was the first time i had ever had a rush of adrenaline like that. It was such an amazing feeling, from that moment I knew my life was forever changed into a mixed martial artist”.
That fight was against Kathleen Albany at Capital City Cage Fighting Championships in December 2010 and Amanda got the win in the second round. At only 19 stepping into your first MMA fight can be a daunting experience but she had already experienced what it is like to compete in the boxing ring, so the crowd and atmosphere was nothing to worry about. Also, she had never competed in the crazy world of MMA, so she didn’t know what to expect. Which in the end helped out a great deal and led to a pretty comfortable experience.
“Oddly enough, I think I was the least nervous for my first match as I had no idea what to expect and I held no expectations for myself. I went out there and did what I knew. It was probably the most fun I had ever had in a match, still to this day. I had a smile on my face the entire fight and having so much boxing experience definitely helped me out”.
That first fight was a sign of what was to come in the amateur career of Amanda as in just over two years she put together a great record of 8-3, going on to win the TWC, WXC and CCCFC 125 pound championships. For the WXC title she knocked out her opponent, Tori Music, in just eight seconds. Not a bad way to become the champion.
“The eight second knockout was almost disappointing at first. I mean an eight second KO is unbeatable and I am happy to have that on my list of accomplishments but I trained extremely hard for that fight. I trained very hard on my weak spots and I was hoping to showcase that in the fight and when my opponent went down I was like crap, I wasn’t expecting this. But I am very happy with my performance. In the warm up area I practiced that punch over and over so it was amazing to see that what I was practicing, I ended the fight with”.
Being one champion is always a special feeling, but being the best in three different promotions definitely puts a target on you. Some people can find this hard to do and don’t last long as champion, but Amanda just kept on showing why she was such a prospect in the 125 pound division. A champion has to be prepared to motivate themselves to stay at the top, instead of focusing on the obstacles that lay on the route to fighting for the belt.
“Going into fights as the champion I was definitively more nervous, as I like to be the underdog but as the champion I had the bulls-eye on my back but It also made me train harder and push myself more. Being the challenger makes you train hard to show people what you have and to prove that you have the skills to be the title holder but being the champion is a little different. You train hard not to prove that you will always be the champion”.
However Amanda showed that she is human in her amateur days and less than a handful of fellow martial artists have defeated her. Yolanda Gonzalez and Allanna Jones defeated her via decision and it took Chandra Engel until the fifth round to get the TKO. If you are going to get the victory over Amanda, you are going to be pushed to your absolute limits. Some fighters can take this wrong way and spiral into a losing streak, but Amanda has always responded from her defeats with a victory. She has gone away, learnt from her mistakes and bounced back stronger.
“Losing fights is the best way to improve, as you really get to see where you are at. You get humbled with each loss, and I really like that. Each fight I have, win or lose, I get to look at my strong areas and my weak ones and I can use that to improve my game but when you lose, you look at everything. You get to see another girls hands raised and know that you did everything you could to win but it wasn’t enough, so now its time to get into the gym and make sure that the next time, your hand is raised. A loss pushes you to even greater limits. Its not only a great thing training wise but its great character building. I have learned a lot from each loss but I have also learned a lot from each win”.
Developing and learning is what takes fighters to that next level and everything Amanda experienced due her amateur days shot her to become the number one 125 pound amateur fighter in Michigan and the third in the whole of the USA. Now that is another fantastic achievement to add to your ever growing CV, a great boost for you going into the future and shows everyone out there what you have to offer.
“Its great to be the top amateur and its a amazing feeling to have but I always knew that in a short time it wasn’t going to mean much, as I eventually knew I was going to want to fight professional and get climbing those rankings. Hard work is hard work and having my name at the top of any list whether its amateur or pro is an awesome feeling to have. I am very happy with my accomplishments as an amateur and I’m glad others get to see my hard work as well”.
After all that Amanda has been through it must be hard to choose a personal highlight as everything you do in training and the cage, is a new experience. If I had to choose highlights from my first time in the cage, to knocking someone out in eight seconds or taking home a belt, I would find it hard going. For Amanda it’s all about building herself a fighter and her best moments are where she shows how far she has come as a mixed martial artist.
“My first fight was a big career highlight for me. Just building enough nerves to step into a cage, that’s locked, while another girl is doing everything shes got to have her hand raised at the end is intimidation. I was very proud of myself that night. I didn’t know what I was getting myself into but the fact that I came out victorious was huge for me. I’ll never forget that feeling.
I have a few other fights that I am very proud of. All the fights that I look at and am very happy with are not crazy knockouts or anything like that, they are fights where I showed my progression as a mixed martial artist. With being a boxer no one expects me to get a takedown or submit my opponents so the fights where I use my wrestling and jiu jitsu, those are the fights I am proud of the most. I don’t want to be known as the girl with great boxing, I want to be known as the boxer who transformed into a great mixed martial artist”.
No one can say that Amanda isn’t transitioning into a mixed martial artist at a rapid pace. Many people will stick with the boxing and think it will be enough to see them through the first part of their career and hope to pick up the rest as their career progresses. However MMA isn’t like that, you have to be comfortable in all areas or you will be found out. MMA involves bits of everything and one area Amanda has picked up quickly is Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, first made famous by the legendary Royce Gracie, and she has already worked her way to a blue belt. Not just that, she regularly enters no-gi and gi BJJ tournaments. This is something which shows a range of skills as MMA fighters don’t fight in the GI, so to test yourself shows even more dedication.
“My favorite tournament was definitely at the Arnolds classic. Those matches at that tournament were my most difficult matches and I had more nerves during those matches. It was a great experience getting to travel and compete with people all over. It was my most difficult tournament due to my opponents skills but anytime I compete in gi matches its hard as well. I only train no gi, so competing in gi is a big challenge for me. I compete in gi just so I can get more matches with different people. Even though those are my hardest matches, I have never lost a gi match”.
In your career it’s also good to have a superb team behind you as you will spend a lot of time with them. Amanda trains out of Scorpion Fighting System and they are the best place for her to develop. Since training with the team she has found a place where she can not only grow as a MMA fighter but also feel comfortable as they are one big family. Along with training and getting coach, she also coaches other people. This is a good way for fighters to step outside of their training routine and help push others to their personal goals. It is also something which can help you as a fighter to see fighting from a different angle and is something Amanda has always wanted to do.
“The best things about Team SFS is that we are all one big family. I train with these people all day everyday. I see them more then I see my own family. I get to see them going for their dreams and I get to see them fall and get back up again. There’s no other gym like ours. It is the most technical gym I have ever been to by far. We have great people, great training partners and great credentialed coaches. This gym and these coaches are what helped my go from a boxer to a very skilled mixed martial artist. I am very thankful that I walked into the doors at scorpion fighting system and no matter where my career takes me I will forever be at Team SFS.
I absolutely love coaching, it is great. I knew I had always wanted to become a coach but I never imagined I would have gained so much out of it. I knew I would be helping others out but I didn’t know how much it would help me become better as a fighter. I get to test myself in a different way and its amazing. Watching the girls I train become better and better is awesome.
Watching girls accomplish their goals is inspiring. They say I inspire them but they don’t realize how much they are actually doing for me”.
In the fast pace world of MMA there are many stand out figures. Amanda is one in Michigan and then there are many others around the world. The main figure in helping Women’s MMA gain popularity is Ronda Rousey, the armbar queen. Ever since Ronda has come on the scene she has gone from strength to strength and will go down in history as the first ever Women’s Bantamweight Champion in the UFC. She is someone who gets criticism from some but is looked upon by many as a role-model. Amanda is someone who knows how much Ronda has done for the sport.
“I think Ronda Rousey is definitely a big creator of women’s MMA. There are a lot of other women that have helped build women’s MMA. including Gina Carano, nut Ronda’s skills and accomplishments along with her background and story gives her the spotlight. Being the first ever women to win a title in the UFC is a huge step for women. I think any girl that tries to deny her skills and her roll in influencing women’s MMA is crazy”.
The future is a bright one for Amanda with so many opportunities to come her way. She turned pro in April of this year but has found it hard to find match up’s. Hopefully she will be able to get on with her pro career and kick start a run towards to the top. At the moment she is focused on professional boxing but if she can get sorted with some MMA fights it would be the perfect way to end 2013 and for her to aim towards her big goals.
“I would love to fight for Invicta and hopefully one day the UFC. But for now I am dreaming of seeing myself on a Invicta card in the near future”.
Seeing Amanda on an Invicta card would be a dream for all her fans as well. You can’t deny the rise of Michigan’s leading lady and the skills which she posses. It will be interesting to follow her into the future and see if the top guns come calling soon. Amanda will be around for a long time and if she can become a top ranked flyweight in just two years at amateur, then her pro days will take her on even further. She has a great knowledge of the sport and you can tell how much she learns from all experiences. As she said “A loss pushes you to even greater limits”, and the sky isn’t the only limit for Bobby.
To keep up to date with Amanda you can on twitter: https://twitter.com/BCOOP125
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Amanda for taking the time to answer my questions and wish her all the best in her future.
Photo Credit: Amanda Cooper