SINGAPORE – Will Chope found MMA while serving as an Air Force civil engineer in Guam, and quickly seized upon the sport as a way to make a fresh start.
Rather than invest his time at a super-gym in the U.S., he traveled to around the world to sharpen his skills as a professional fighter. He’s served stints in Phillipines, Tawain, Malaysia, and Thailand, where he’s made a permanent home.
“You’ve got all these tiny gyms hidden around the country, and they’re still just as good as gyms in America,” said Chope, who meets Max Holloway on the preliminary card of UFC Fight Night 34, which streams on UFC Fight Pass.
In the past three years, the 6-foot-4 Chope has stood out not only with his gangly frame, but his willingness to fight. He said he’s racked up 52 fights in muay Thai, K-1 kickboxing and MMA.
Of course, there were lessons learned along the way, some of them hard ones. He was self-managed for much of his career and accepted bouts with heavier opponents.
“I lost a lot of fights, and had a lot of mismatches, but it was a good idea at the time,” Chope said.
Chope (19-5 MMA, 0-0 UFC) found his stride after he learned how to cut weight. Now fighting at 145 pounds, he’s won his past 14 bouts in MMA (12 of them in the first round) and earned a fight with young standout Max Holloway (7-3 MMA, 3-3 UFC), who looks to rebound from a recent loss to red-hot prospect Conor McGregor.
“A lot of people don’t think I’m ready for the UFC, since I just started three and a half years ago,” Chope said. “But I feel like if I can win this fight, I can show everybody that I belong.”
Fans can expect “lanky madness” when they see the two square off in the octagon, said Chope, who favors the striking game after years of training in kickboxing.
And whether or not he wins, the UFC newcomer said he’s still willing to take whatever bout the UFC offers. A fight every month would not be too much.
“I don’t fight for money, but now that I have my family, UFC gives me that security,” Chope said. “I’m making enough money from sponsors that I’m just trying to focus on the UFC. I still want to fight as much as I can, but we’ll see what the UFC thinks about that.”
While it’s unlikely the UFC will allow him to take bouts outside the promotion, he plans to stay in Thailand, where he has a wife and son.
“There’s no better muay Thai fighters than the Thais,” Chope said. “And there’s foreigners traveling to Thailand year-round, and you’ve got people learning muay Thai, but at the same time, they’re doing jiu-jitsu and wrestling. So I pick up a lot, and I get to train with guys from around the world.”
For more on UFC Fight Night 34, stay tuned to the UFC Rumors section of the site.