By Phil Lanides
When Pro Elite announced a bout between former UFC Champion “The Pitbull” Andrei Arlovski and Ray Lopez as the main event for its August 27th event in Honolulu, Hawaii, many fight fans headed to their nearest laptop to look up the latter. “Who is Ray Lopez?” was the thought that came to mind for many. A quick scan of his record showed that he is a three-time King of the Cage veteran with a 6-1-0-1 record who has finished five of his six victims in decisive fashion, and is coming off a first round knockout victory in his last bout. Outside of that info…there just wasn’t a lot of info out there.
So…who is Ray Lopez? Ask, and ye shall receive.
The 24 year-old Lopez has a very eclectic background when it comes to his combat sports training. He grew up in fighting basically his entire life. In fact, his dad is a belt-holding martial arts instructor. During his adolescence, Lopez tried his hand at different sports. He played some football, but was deemed too violent for the gridiron. He then tried his hand at soccer, but, again, he was just too violent for the sport. Then came wrestling…and that didn’t work out either. The six-foot, 220-pounder was trying to find his niche in the professional sports world. And that’s when he discovered MMA.
Growing up, Lopez fancied himself a tough guy and did a lot of street-fighting. Eventually, though, he found his way to the Extreme MMA gym in Holland, Michigan, where he began to train with Gary Weighman and Andy Jamrog. It was life-changing, and there, he found his true calling.
In an interesting twist, Lopez actually started in cagefighting first before getting into professional boxing. After alternating wins and losses in the squared circle, he began to dabble in Muay Thai and judo, as well as boxing. Lopez has even made his way to Dan Severn’s famed training camps up in Michigan. He is intent on being as complete a mixed martial artist as he can be.
“I never got into fighting to be famous,” explains Lopez. “I’m not trying to get rich off it. I just do it because I like hitting, and I like getting hit.”
Now, Lopez has been given the biggest opportunity of his career, as he will face “The Pitbull.” Though Arlovski has faced some tough times recently, Lopez is taking the fight as seriously as he can. “To beat Arlovski, for me, it would mean a lot to me, just because of who he is. He’s one of my idols, and watching him fight helped get me started in MMA. I have a lot of respect for him. I never would have expected an opportunity like this, but whether or not I’m ready, it’s time to show the world who Ray Lopez is.”
As for the specifics of the fight itself, Lopez has his eyes wide open. “Every time that I think an opponent is going to try to take me down, he doesn’t, even if he’s a wrestler. With Arlovski, he’s got a background in standup and ground, so, really, it can go anywhere. So I’m ready for a war. I’m just going to be ready for my opportunity to strike.”
Fighting in Hawaii for the first time is a big deal to Lopez. “I would like to thank Pro Elite for this opportunity, and I can’t wait to show the Hawaiian fans my skill set. I’ve heard they are very knowledgeable, and love a good scrap. So I’m going to do my best to put on a great show for them.”
And if all goes as plans, when the night is over, fans won’t have to look up Ray Lopez to know who he is. He’ll have already shown them.