Ultimate fighting star Jamie Te Huna believes Matt Cooper has a future in mixed martial arts, after the retiring Dragons great revealed he is intent on a fight next year.
The 34-year-old announced he would hang up the boots at the end of the year after a season plagued by injury.
However, it may just be the beginning of another career as a professional athlete after Te Huna, who has an 18-6 UFC career record, said he would be keen to train with Cooper at his base at Penrith.
Cooper has had an interest in mixed martial arts for a number of years and Te Huna – who worked with Parramatta during 2009 when the Eels made the NRL grand final – said Cooper had the potential to make the transition to the MMA arena.
‘‘In my experience, footballers make the step to MMA much more easily than boxers do,’’ he said.
‘‘It’s a lot to do with their technique, because of that up and down movement they do with tackling and wrestling in footy.
‘‘I know Matt is a UFC fan, I follow him on Twitter and I’d love for him to come up and train with me.
‘‘There’s a few guys who have come into UFC in their mid-30s, age is no barrier, I think he’d be in a better place than most athletes to make a go of it, as long as his mind is fresh.’’
The chiselled Cooper, who in partnership with former teammate Josh Miller operates a personal training gym in Wollongong, is also eyeing off a tilt in the ultra-competitive CrossFit Games arena.
‘‘I think over the last six or seven years I’ve explored different avenues in fitness to try to make me a better player,’’ said Cooper, after officially pulling the pin on a decorated 243-game professional rugby league career yesterday.
‘‘To be honest I’m definitely going to be trying out for the CrossFit Games next year. The regionals are in Wollongong so that’s a competition I’ll be training for.
‘‘After that I wouldn’t mind having an MMA fight. I’m a competitor and I want to keep competing at some level.’’
The sight of the perennial Sexiest Man In League contender – who made his NRL debut in 2000 – stepping into the often brutal world of MMA won’t exactly have his flock of female fans in raptures.
But if St George Illawarra coach Steve Price is to be believed, Cooper has honed the relevant wrestling skills required as rugby league’s man mountain evolution and necessity to slow down the ruck took hold.