By Melanie Dinjaski and Sacha Mirzabegian
Former NRL prima Matt Cooper has challenged retired Sharks skipper Paul Gallen to a blockbuster MMA combat and says he's got enactment from nary little than UFC president Dana White to marque it happen.
Cooper played astir 250 NRL games for the St George Illawarra Dragons and had typical caps for the NSW Blues and Kangaroos successful his illustrious rugby league vocation earlier retiring aft the 2013 season.
Now 42, Cooper has spent his post-footy vocation grooming successful mixed martial arts, sharing the gym with chap Illawarra local, UFC featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski, and for respective years helium has been hopeless to combat Gallen, but the league star-turned boxer keeps "brushing him" for a day successful the cage.
Gallen's household urges NRL fable to discontinue boxing
Cooper said Gallen lone wants to combat successful the boxing ring, nevertheless the erstwhile centre said that's not privation the radical want.
"I consciousness similar footy players boxing each different is beauteous dead. I don't deliberation it's what everyone wants to see," Cooper told Wide World of Sports.
"I deliberation radical privation to spot a change. Most radical emotion the UFC and that's wherever it's going.
"I'm keen to combat him. I've said earlier successful the media. Everyone wants to spot it. I privation to beryllium his archetypal MMA fight. I texted him a mates of years agone and he's said helium would if the money's right."
Cooper wasn't conscionable voicing an sentiment either. He said UFC brag White adjacent gave the greenish airy to a imaginable showdown betwixt the brace years ago.
"I've been friends with Dana White for a while, since astir 2014 erstwhile Rhonda Rousey came retired here," Cooper explained.
"I asked Dana, I said, 'Look I'd emotion to combat successful the UFC'. He was a spot hesitant astatine the commencement but erstwhile I said if maine and Gallen were warring successful Australia it would get mainstream media... due to the fact that erstwhile UFC comes to Australia they usually don't get mainstream media. And his eyes lit up. And helium was like, 'Yeah I'd fto you fight'.
"He was beauteous keen to get maine connected an existent UFC paper but since COVID-19 has deed they haven't been to Australia successful a while. It doesn't look they'll beryllium successful Australia successful a while, but that doesn't mean maine and Gallen can't fight."
Cooper claimed Gallen's manager projected a boxing match, which wasn't good received.
"I deliberation he's trying to marque his sanction successful boxing," Cooper said.
"His manager asked maine If I would conscionable container him - I said nary 1 wants to spot that. People privation to spot america successful the cage."
Cooper conceded with a UFC champion similar Volkanovski successful his country and 8 years of MMA grooming nether his sleeve, it would beryllium unfair to expect Gallen to combat him successful a cage immediately, truthful helium is consenting to springiness it time.
"I'd astir apt person to springiness him until adjacent year," Cooper said.
"He's done wrestling before. I deliberation he's got an MMA manager truthful it astir apt wouldn't instrumentality him excessively agelong but I'd beryllium consenting to hold till astir apt conscionable earlier the play starts adjacent twelvemonth - [that] would beryllium an perfect time.
"I deliberation the hype betwixt maine and him would beryllium huge. I get stopped connected the thoroughfare each the clip and asked, 'When are you going to combat Gallen?'
"I've called him retired before. I consciousness similar he's ducking me. I've called him retired a mates of times and he's brushed it off."
As for whether the combat sports-loving nationalist would privation to spot a 39-year-old and 42-year-old erstwhile footy subordinate duo fight, Cooper was adamant they could enactment connected a show, earlier issuing a informing to Gallen.
"There's been UFC satellite champs successful their forties. I don't deliberation property matters successful this sport. It's not similar footy wherever you person to play each week," Cooper said.
"He's a pugnacious bloke. He's played footy and boxed astatine a precocious level. To maine I consciousness similar he's a brawler. He's acceptable and tin instrumentality a punch.
"But if helium wants to measurement into the cage he's going to person to woody with a batch more. I reckon I've got much advantages implicit him than successful the cage.
"If helium wants it I'm acceptable to spell and I'll springiness him clip to get ready."
Despite revealing household had suggested helium discontinue boxing for his wellness aft being defeated by a 10th circular TKO to Justis Huni past month, Gallen said earlier this week that helium volition combat again.
"Over 400 games of shot and 15 fights, I've been wounded once," helium told Wide World of Sports Radio.
"I person thing to prove, but I privation to marque a dollar.
"The offers that person travel to maine implicit the past 3 weeks person been unbelievable from that [Huni] fight.
"It's similar my stocks person gone up. I can't ideate what would person happened had I won that fight."
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