It is more common than ever to see 18-year-olds going pro in MMA than it used to be. What is rarer is someone turning professional at 37 years old. In what many consider a “young man’s sport”, Ray Lopez is turning professional after putting together a 4-0 amateur record.
Lopez’s path started a lot later in life than most. It goes to show, if you have the desire and will, you can achieve anything.
Early Sports Days
Growing up in New Jersey, Lopez wrestled in high school but admittedly never realized his full abilities. “It feels amazing to be making my pro debut. I never reached my real potential wrestling in high school and wasted a ton of time and I can’t imagine how crazy I drove my coaches back then not being able to pull it all together the way I really should have,” Lopez told MMA Sucka.
Those coaches in particular Lopez wanted to thank are John Kurelja, John Gagliano, William Terrel, Eddie Castellanos, Kurt Pellegrino, and Miles Hahn. “I bailed on the sport, walked away from scholarships and chose a school that didn’t even have a team because it broke my heart. I was burnt out mentally and thought I was done with high level athletics.”
Between the ages of 19 and 29, Lopez was completely inactive from anything combative or physical. He worked his job as a graphic designer before deciding a change was needed. Lopez found BJJ and Muay Thai. After losing around 40 pounds, Lopez rediscovered his passion for high level competition. The first man to convince Lopez to compete in MMA at the age of 31 was Matan Gavish. Professors Plinio Cruz, Luis Azerado and Serge Scoli are the first to introduce Lopez to BJJ and Muay Thai.
MMA Journey In Full Swing
At the age of 32, Lopez took on his first amateur MMA bout in the form of Dakota Spencer at NYFE 4: Back For More in September 2014, which took place in Queens, New York. After winning via first-round knockout, Lopez returned six months later for NYFE 5, earning another knockout, this time in the second round.
Almost three years later in February 2018, Lopez reemerged in one of the best fight promotions in all of the South, Bayou Fighting Championship (formerly known as Battle of New Orleans.) His bout this time was against another undefeated fighter in the form of Brian Barry. The fighters went the distance with Lopez earning the split decision, winning the Battle of New Orleans flyweight title.
Lopez kept his streak going by defeating Dave Davis via first-round knockout. The event was Bayou FC 33: New Orleans which took place in November 2018. The Nola MMA product took the Tennessee based fighter to the ground quickly. Lopez displayed his advanced BJJ skills, locking in an inverted triangle choke before transitioning into a rear naked choke.
Davis was quickly flattened and Lopez started raining down shots with Davis on his stomach. The bell saved Davis from a first-round TKO. The second round began with Davis throwing wild, desperate strikes. Lopez remained calm, not engaging in a fire fight, and landed a single leg takedown. After starting in side control, Lopez transitioned straight to top mount. The inevitable occurred with Lopez landing heavy shots from top control and the referee stepping in to call a stop to the action.
The Next Challenge
Though recently turning 37 years old, Lopez is only just beginning a new chapter in his journey. The composed, deadly grappler will have his professional debut against Brandon Grimmett.
The big moment will come at Bayou FC 36: New Orleans on April 5th, 2019.
“He [Grimmet] has a lot of experience in the cage and I’m not looking past him in any way,” Lopez stated to MMA Sucka. “I’ve been in the grind of competition since I was 12 years old so I feel very prepared mentally and physically for this fight. My coaches and training partners are pushing me every day and I have an incredible nutritionist and strength and conditioning coach working with me to keep my body right and the weight cut proper. We’ve built an awesome team and I’m looking forward to sharing all the hard work we’ve put in with ya’ll!”
The journey of Lopez is an absolute success and motivational story. Regardless of age or any other factor, if you have a dream you can make it come true. In a “young man’s game” Lopez is set to show age is only a number and it’s your ability and heart that measure your toughness in the cage. If that’s the scale we all use, Lopez is a world champion.