Amanda Bobby Cooper’s MMA journey has been an interesting one. However, that has only been a rough draft and she is already adding new chapters to the story.
The next chapter will be written Sept. 7, when “ABC” returns to action at Lights Out Championship 5 in Grand Rapids, Mich. Cooper will face Jamie Milanowski in the event’s headliner.
Cooper accomplished a dream that a lot of up and coming fighters have, she made it to the UFC, although her path was a little bit different. After turning pro in 2014 and having only two professional fights, Cooper was added to season 23 of The Ultimate Fighter, making it all the way to the finals before losing to the eventual champion, Tatiana Suarez. After six fights in the organization and, most recently, suffering a split-decision loss to Ashley Yoder at UFC Fight Night 139 in November, the UFC opted not to re-sign Cooper.
It was to be expected, per Cooper, due the result. The judges’ scorecards were a different story.
“I wasn’t surprised at all,” Cooper told The Scrap about not being re-signed by the UFC. “I kind of knew before the fight that if it didn’t go my way I wasn’t going to get signed again. Obviously disappointing. I was more disappointed in the split decision loss, I really felt like I had won that fight and it was hard because I thought that I was such a better fighter than Ashley. That was my fault for letting it go that far and it had me questioning a lot. Training has been a lot different lately, just because I thought I was at a level, and then getting beat by Ashley, getting kicked out of the UFC, I really had to up my training and change some things — which is more beneficial for me.”
“A part of me was relieved and excited. I got into the UFC when I was 1-1 so I was kind of a baby and I had to grow up in the biggest organization in the world, against the toughest girls in the world. I lost to Aspen Ladd before, Mackenzie Dern, Tatiana Suarez, Cynthia Calvillo, my losses — other than Ashley Yoder — were against top-10 caliber girls in the world. Most of them were undefeated. It’s been a tough road and once I got the sadness out, like ‘Sh*t, I’m not in the UFC’, I was kind of excited to find my own fights, my own opponents and my own timeline. It was a little relief that I get to build my way back up.”
After spending nearly three years in the biggest MMA promotion on the planet, it’s only natural for a fighter to question themselves and their abilities. A lot has changed in the life of “ABC” since not being re-signed to the UFC, one of which has to do with her marital status. Cooper recently married her best friend, and number-one fan, Cody Brundage, who oddly enough is also a professional fighter.
Brundage has become one of the top light heavyweight prospects in the midwest and looks to have a very bright future in the sport. Of course, Cooper is excited to see her husband progress in the wild world of mixed martial arts and will use the experience she has in the game to help her husband along in his respective story.
The proverbial MMA roads for the newlyweds could not be more different. Cooper, admittedly, wonders how her career would have shaped up if she took the more regional path her husband is currently on.
“My husband is 2-0 as a pro and I get a weird amount of jealousy,” Cooper explained. “Sometimes I have to catch myself and make sure it’s a healthy jealousy. I wish I could go back, but he has this clean slate. He has two first round finishes and he’s a big guy, the UFC wants bigger guys so the opportunities can come faster. He just signed with a big management company and I get jealous because I wish could go back and be that person, have a different approach to fighting for the UFC. I’m the only person from my gym to be in the UFC and be on The Ultimate Fighter. But I was the first one, so being the first one, we didn’t know how to do it. We didn’t know we could say no to a fight, or question a timeline. I wish I almost wasn’t rushed into it, but being the first fighter from my gym, we had no idea. So, now my husband has this spot and I’m jealous. I tell him, ‘You’re so lucky, you have this clear path, you can choose what you want, you can make any decision you want and make sure it’s the right one.'”
“He’s going to be smart, we’re going to make sure he gets the right amount of fights, the right experience before we say yes to any UFC or Contender Series offers.”
Cooper returns to the cage in September to get back to her winning ways and show the world that she belongs at the top level. As most long journeys go, one experiences ups and downs — some of which are completely unexpected, even devastating.
That was the case for Cooper as she faced a truly heartbreaking moment in her life outside of the cage and getting back to competition, returning to the sport, has come at a time where she needed it the most.
“It’s huge. It’s absolutely what I want and what I need right now,” Cooper said. “So a lot of people don’t know this, after I got engaged in December, we started planning a wedding and I was like, ‘I’m not gonna fight, I’m just going to plan the wedding.’ I wanted to take a break and train, and let Cody go do his career. He got four wins, went pro, all in this six months it took to do our wedding. I got pregnant a month before the wedding and had a miscarriage right before the wedding. I needed a distraction. I got super upset and it was rough. My body was going through all of these changes, and I instantly called Matt Frendo and told him I want to fight. I need something to get my mind off of it, I need something to get me in the gym two or three times a day. I want to have something, so he instantly called me with this fight with Jamie and it’s been the distraction I needed and wanted. I’m just really excited to fight, especially in Michigan — in my home state — against an opponent that’s good, tough, but nowhere near the level I’ve seen in the UFC, or even going all over the world training. It’s just a perfect opportunity for me right now.”
Standing in front of Cooper on Sept. 7 will be six-fight veteran Jamie Milanowski, a 28-year-old fighter from Huntsville, Ala. The “Lil Cannon”, like Cooper, has competed against some tough competition, suffering losses to former UFC women’s flyweight champion Nicco Montano and, current Invicta FC contender, Victoria Leonardo. Most recently, Milanowski picked up a first-round submission win over Kyna Sisson at April’s Lights Out Championship 3 event.
Cooper respects her opponent and is thrilled to be competing, but she feels that if you compare her resume to Milanowki’s, they aren’t in the same league.
“I was familiar with her,” Cooper stated. “I watched her last fight against Kyna at Lights Out, she fought a much smaller, not great opponent. Yeah, the people she’s fought, who beat her, is just nowhere near the people that I’ve been fighting. It does give me a piece of mind knowing that… there’s just different levels. I know that she’s tough, she wants to come in and wrestle, she wrestled in high school which isn’t that impressive. I’m fighting against Tatiana Suarez, an Olympian. High school wrestling, mediocre fights aren’t that intimidating, but I know that she’s tough. She’s a bigger opponent and that’s exciting for me because she’s not going to give up right away. She’s going to put on a show and she’s going to come to fight.”
For those who follow the world of MMA, it is not uncommon to hear stories from some of the biggest names in the sport about the young bucks coming into the gym, seeing a UFC caliber fighter standing across from them, and trying to make a name for themselves at the expense of the bigger name. Although it’s not the same when it comes to competing in the cage and having the lights shine upon you, Cooper expects — even hopes — that Milanowski will try to bring a little bit extra to the Lights Out cage on Sept. 7.
“She’s going to see a different caliber of fighter,” Cooper said. “I fought six times for the UFC, I was an Ultimate Fighter finalist. I’m just a different athlete. The way I train, present myself and fight, I do believe it is from coming from the UFC. She’s gonna see a fired up and very motivated Amanda Bobby Cooper.”
“She should come with some extra. She’s not this 4-0 up and comer, she’s been fighting for a while, she’s just never got to that level. She’s just stayed kind of regional, fought once for Invicta, but I’m sure she’s going to come with some fire but she’s never been at the stage that I’ve been in.”
As first reported by MMA Junkie, Cooper has also signed a deal to compete for Invicta FC. The 27-year-old is thrilled to be back with the entertaining promotion she competed in back in 2015 before going on The Ultimate Fighter.
Cooper feels competing for Invicta will let her showcase her personality and provide a great home to showcase her skills following her upcoming fight on Sept. 7. She hopes to make her return to the Invicta cage before the end of the year.
“I’ve always been a fan of Invicta,” Cooper said. “It’s almost like a different world, the outfits they wear, the weigh-ins, everyone just comes together and no matter if they are fighting each other, or not, they’re just so happy to be there. I love the energy, I’ve fought on there before, I love Shannon Knapp — she just loves the fighters she has and she’s very great to them. It’s great to fight for a promotion — and that’s why I’m fighting for Lights Out — that cares about the fighters. The UFC, it was just a call, fight there, fight then, you don’t get a say. So this is nice. I can’t wait to fight for them after this next one.”
“The plan is to get this win, and then if they have a card at the end of the year, November or December, fight for them as soon as possible.”
In a weird way, even though she has spent the majority of her professional career with the UFC, Cooper is starting all over again. While most fighters take the regional, career building approach to get to the world’s most premier MMA promotion, Cooper is doing things in reverse. With a fresh coat of paint, and some newer experiences under her belt, Cooper is hoping to make it back to the hallowed Octagon, and the push starts in a few weeks time.
“I definitely want to get back to the UFC,” Cooper explained. “I definitely want to get some growth and some confidence, get some fights, smash Jamie Milanowski and knowing that I deserve to be at the highest level. I don’t want to just get by with a decision win over Jamie, I don’t want it to be close. I want it to show that I do belong in the UFC. I’ve had some bad luck with some fights, some bad matchups. But I’m going to keep progressing, I’m going to get some better fights against some better opponents for me. I’m going to get some fights, get some confidence, get some hype behind me again and get back to the UFC.”
Amanda Cooper has experienced the glory of victory, the agony of defeat, happy days and heartbreaks. In the end, it’s all part of her story. There are many ways to get to the UFC in 2019 — impressive wins on the regional scene, videos of performances going viral, short notice opportunities, Dana White’s Contender Series and even The Ultimate Fighter.
“ABC” is ready to take whatever road needs to be taken to return the UFC. However, if the opportunity presents itself in the form of a second go-around with TUF, that will be a tough sell.
“Never! I would never do it,” Cooper said about The Ultimate Fighter. “It was a great experience, I learned a lot. There’s really no other reason than that I’ve done it before, and I don’t want to leave my husband for six weeks. I couldn’t even imagine it. He’s the number-one person in my life — training, taking care of the house — we do so much together. He’s my number-one supporter and I think I would fall apart without him. I’ve done it before and I fought so many times before that, I would just want to get into the UFC, or even a Contender Series fight.”
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The Scrap’s Mike Heck is an interviewer and features writer for FloCombat, The Body Lock, MyMMANews and BJPenn.com. Happily married and a proud father, Mike also hosts a weekly podcast called Between the Links on the Loudmouth MMA Podcast Network and YouTube page. Follow all of Mike’s exclusive video interviews at Mike Heck MMA on YouTube and follow him on Twitter (@MikeHeck_JR).