According to Chris Cope, who studied sociology and psychology at the University of California, Santa Barbara, he left the university with far more than an education.
“I started drinking probably when I was 18,” recounted Cope, 28. “And then got heavy into it when I got into college when I was 19.
“My dad was a former narcotics cop and he always told me that he’d disown me if he ever caught me with marijuana, you know, cocaine, ecstasy—any of that stuff—so I stayed away from that...Drinking has always been America’s drug, so I felt that it wasn’t that big of a deal and, if I drank, then I could fit in and then I would blend in.
“I was always trying to fit in and the problem was when I was like in middle school and we’d be skateboarding and stuff, guys would always go behind, you know, a building and they’d be smoking joints. They would always ask if I wanted some and I would always say, ‘No,’ and then I wouldn’t fit in. When alcohol came on the table, I was like, ‘Oh, this is legal—this is no big deal. I can do this,’ and I felt like I fit in.”
After leaving school, Cope, who drank heavily during much of his time in university, eventually began drinking upwards of four nights a week.
In 2010, however, Cope abruptly quit drinking.
“My cousin is a recovering alcoholic,” Cope explained. “I think he’s been in recovery for 17 years. He basically told me, you know, ‘I’m not saying you have a problem or anything else; I’m just saying that you should maybe look into this.’ I started going to [Alcoholics Anonymous] and I saw a lot of these old alcoholics that were all, you know, burnt out and all messed up and I knew that this wasn’t the path that I wanted to take. I got into a verbal confrontation with one of the guys that I train with—I said some really horrible stuff—and I got tired of waking up in the morning and having all of these people to apologize to.
“There was somebody that I dated in the past that had a five-year-old daughter and I really sat back and thought to myself, ‘What would this kid think of me if she ever saw me drunk?’ It clicked and I was like, ‘I’m done.’”
Although Cope admitted that he’s taken part in activities that aren’t exactly recommended by Alcoholics Anonymous—a list that more than likely includes taking part in The Ultimate Fighter—he has nevertheless remained clean since late 2010.
Cope, who would go on to make it to the semifinals on his season of The Ultimate Fighter shortly after giving up alcohol, emphasized that his life has improved tenfold over the course of the past 14 months.
“It’s crazy,” Cope said with a laugh. “I’m around a lot more positive people now, I’m dating a girl now—that I never thought I would be dating—who’s a very positive influence in my life. Hell, man, I’m fighting in the UFC! I’m inspiring people, I’m motivating people.”
On Saturday, Cope—in what will be his third professional appearance in the UFC—is to take on Matt Brown, a veteran of 10 Octagon appearances at UFC 143 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas.
To be certain, the man they call “C Murder” intends on winning his match on Saturday. However, after 14 months of sobriety, Cope has his sights set on accomplishing far more than picking up a victory this weekend.
“I want to visit every country in the world, I want to travel down Route 66, I want to go into space and go to another planet—when that’s available—I want to fight in Japan, I want to win a belt in a major organization—hopefully all in the UFC—I want to get a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, I want to win the Mundials in jiu-jitsu,” explained Cope.
“I want to have a business, I want to go to law school and graduate, I want to be a practicing attorney, I want to own a gym, I want to give back to the community and start an organization for underprivileged kids...I want to teach a college class, I want to write a book.
“I’ve got a lot of stuff (on my bucket list), man, and it keeps growing.”
Ed Kapp is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotations were obtained first-hand.
[This feature, when first published, falsely reported Cope as the winner of his season of The Ultimate Fighter. However, Cope was knocked out of the semifinals by Ramsey Nijem.]