Ask a fighter why they fight. What motivates them to do what they do, to live the difficult and extraordinary life of a professional fighter. No two answers are exactly the same.
Some fight for money. Others for fame. Some fight for titles and belts. Some fight to find out exactly what they’re capable of physically, and then to exceed that. Some fight for the pure adrenaline rush of combat, the “thrill of the fight,” if I can rip off Rocky 3 for a moment.
Why does Kit Cope fight?
A decade after his Mixed Martial Arts debut, with a host of kickboxing world championships to his credit and a lifetime spent in gyms from Idaho to Thailand and back again, what drives the Arizona native to keep strapping on the 4 oz. gloves?
Good old fashioned fun, that’s what.
“It’s fun, man. Fighting is fun. I could say something fake, something cheesy about ‘winning like a champion!’ that I thought up as a cool line for reporters. But I’d be lying. I’d be full of it.“
Kope is 24 hours removed from his next fight, and has been cutting weight all day. The dehydration has put him into a “weird” mood, he explains.
Yet if the hours spent running on treadmills and sweating in saunas has dulled Cope‘s natural energy, he hides it well. As he explains it, fighting for him has always been about doing what comes naturally.
“I love to fight. I love to compete. I’m a natural competitor. It’s in my heart; it’s in my blood. And fighting is just…” his voice trails off as he searches for the right turn of phrase. Again, he settles on a particular choice of words.
“Fun. Fighting is just the most fun. That’s why I do it and that’s why I’ve always done it.”
Tomorrow night, Cope will take on BJJ black belt Freddy Assuncao in the main event of “Fight Night Round XIII: Impact” from the Whatcomb Community College Pavilion in Bellingham, Washington.
This isn‘t just another MMA event, however. Not only is the card streaming live around the world (see link below), but also the proceeds from the event go to Operation: Homefront, a charity benefiting U.S. servicemen and women across all branches of the armed forces.
That last part especially suits Cope just fine.
“I just think it’s so neat that I get to beat somebody up, and that somehow benefits somebody else. That’s so cool! I mean, where else can you do that? I love competing just on its own, but to be able to do that and be able to help out a good cause while I’m doing it? That’s what it’s about.”
That love of competition has fueled Cope’s long career in the fight game. Before he ever stepped foot into MMA, Cope was tearing up the world of kickboxing. He is a four-time Muay Thai World Champion and former member of the U.S National Kickboxing team. He has competed in bare-knuckle bouts in Thailand, and professional boxing matches in the U.S. He once moved to Thailand so he could train his Muay Thai full-time under the legendary Master Toddy.
So saying that Cope is confident in his striking game is like saying that Chuck Liddell has knocked “a few” people out, or that Charlie Sheen has done “a little bit” of partying in his life. But don’t take my word for it.
“There’s nobody in MMA that can stand with me. Nobody. I mean kickboxers try to take me down. [Rob] McCullough is a Muay Thai world champion, and I think I threw like three or four punches at him before he decided to take me down. Nobody wants to stand up with me. That‘s a fact.”
While that may be true, Cope’s elite level striking hasn’t translated to elite level success in Mixed Martial Arts. His MMA career thus far has been fraught with ups and downs, his world class striking game contrasted—and often disappointed—by his pedestrian ground game.
And Cope isn’t stupid—he hears the cries of his detractors.
“People always tell me ‘Bro, you should just stop training your kickboxing and just train BJJ and wrestling!’” Cope explains. “But where would that leave me? My kickboxing is only where it’s at because I keep working on it, day in and day out. You have to keep your skills sharp, otherwise they fall off."
"I have better Muay Thai then anyone else out there; if I just focused on training my BJJ and my wrestling, what would that leave me with? The same kickboxing skills as everyone else? How’s that any improvement?”
Not that Cope is letting the other facets of his game decay, either. Cope knows he has strides yet to make as a MMA fighter and is working hard to round out the edges in his overall game.
Here’s something I bet you didn’t know: in addition to his kickboxing creds, Cope is also a two-time Nevada State Freestyle wrestling champion in his formative years. And while we’re at it, here’s another little known fact: Cope has been training his BJJ game at Cesar Gracie’s academy, alongside MMA notable Nick and Nate Diaz.
According to Cope, the Stockton brothers—known for their brash, abrasive behavior inside and outside the cage—are some of his biggest role models.
“I know it sounds strange because it’s those guys, but [the Diaz brothers] are a huge source of inspiration for me. I mean those guys are always thinking about fighting, always training, always pushing themselves. If they’re not doing BJJ, they’re boxing. If they’re not boxing, their lifting weights. If they’re not lifting weights they’re going on a cross country bike ride, or off swimming, or running a marathon. Those guys push themselves hard every single day.”
Inspiring though that may be, these days Cope doesn’t have to look far to find motivation. Most of his time and energy is focused on his Combat Fitness gym (www.combatfitness.net), an MMA and family fitness facility Cope opened with friend and UFC Bantamweight contender Scott Jorgensen.
“It’s a 7,000 square foot facility located right in the heart of Boise,” Cope explains. “We’ve got 2,000 plus square feet of mat. 500 square feet of bag cage with 20 plus bags in it. We have a separate Pro Training Facility with a full size, 20 foot cage, speed bags, ropes, more mat room just for pro training. Then on top of that we have a full, attached weight lifting and sport performance facility. And we’re coupled up in the same building as the CrossFit refinery. So it’s all pretty huge.”
Next week, Cope turns 34 years old. He has been a professional fighter of one stripe or another all his adult life. What, above all, is he looking to accomplish with his MMA career at this point?
“It’s not like I have any kind of delusions of grandeur, like I’m not [saying] ’Hey! I’m going to win a world title!’ or anything crazy like that,” Cope says with a laugh, seemingly easy going, self-aware. He really seems to mean it.
Then Cope stops, considers that sentiment for a moment. The proud fighter in him, the multiple-world title winner cannot let that last part stand.
“Do I think I could win the [UFC] title? Hell yeah I could! I‘m good! And I keep getting better!”
By Elton Hobson
You can check out all the action from "Fight Night Round XIII: Impact" streaming LIVE online at