Cooba Watkins on putting in the work to win in sport and study

by frank-stuart
22JUN

Somewhere in the world right now, modern-day gladiators are facing up to fight each other, not to the death, but for supremacy in their sport of mixed martial arts (MMA). The physical and mental discipline of this full-contact sport may be daunting to some, but it doesn’t faze 26-year-old MMA fighter, Cooba Watkins.

He has done everything he can to prepare for this moment. He steps into the ring with a calm focus and the will to win. He will assess his opponent and fight him using the skills he’s learnt – from boxing and wrestling to Brazilian jiu-jitsu and MuayThai, plus plenty of improvisation.

Cooba Watkins

Cooba (pictured left) wins silver at a wrestling competition in Sydney (April 2017)

“MMA is the purest form of competition – because, at the end of the day, the only thing that’s stopping me from winning is myself,” said Cooba, who has to drop from his usual 80 kg down to 70 kg to be eligible for the MMA lightweight division.

“If I put in the work, then I’ve done everything I can to win. I don’t have to rely on anyone else, only me. It’s my will versus yours – and if you want it more, you’re probably going to win. But I’m going to want it more.”

They’re fighting words, but Cooba is willing to put in the work and he doesn’t back down from a challenge.

“If your preparation is adequate, you don’t have any fear. It’s like going into an exam and you’re sweating bullets – but that’s probably because you don’t know the content. If you’ve studied, you have no fear.

“That’s what it’s like with MMA. On the day, I know I’ve done everything I can and I’m calm.”

Far from the sweat and intensity of the ring is a quiet place Cooba loves to be – the ACPE Library.

“I like to be in the library because it’s calm and it helps me focus on what’s in front of me. I could stay in there all day.”

As a full-time student at ACPE, in the heart of Sydney’s Olympic Park precinct, Cooba is in his element. He is studying a Bachelor of Health Science with a major in exercise.

“I’m immersing myself in health and fitness and I love it. I’m surrounded by other athletes and just down the road from my training gym. What could be better?”

Cooba said the ACPE is a flexible and supportive place to study, especially for Elite Athletes.

“They’ve been really good to me. If I have to go away for a competition and I have final exams, they’ll let me sit them when I’m back. I feel really grateful.”

While his degree could lead to a career in the industry, that’s not on Cooba’s radar yet.

“Right now, I’m focusing on training and competitions – and enjoying the study.”

Cooba will be lining up for more MMA fights this year, but he also enters wrestling tournaments when he can.

“To me, that’s practice for MMA,” he said.

With his dedication to being prepared, his enthusiasm for learning and his will to win, Cooba looks set to succeed – both inside and outside the ring.

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