Catching up with Bill “the Grill” CooperJun 28th, 2011 by Budo Jake
This interview was conducted by Budovideos staff reporter Erin Herle.
Pulling up to Bill Cooper’s Paragon academy in Agoura Hills, CA, the first thing I noticed was the amount of condensation accumulated on the windows. They were so steamed up that I couldn’t even gather what was going on inside although one could safely assume it was some intense training. As I walked in, it wasn’t hard to decipher which person on the mat was “The Grill” himself given that he had shorts on resembling a black belt as well as a set of some notably unique teeth. The name is really all it takes. He smiled and greeted me and even asked me why I wasn’t training. I made an excuse and sat down on one of many chairs along a red wall full of fight posters ranging in size and different event dates. Right behind the counter was a large Budovideos patch pinned up as well. Bill wasn’t teaching the class at the time so we decided to start the interview. Getting along with the questions, he often turned to the mat to bark commands at his students who were sparring matches so intense you could have sworn there was a championship belt at stake. Every position that transitioned, he was yelling a submission that could have been nailed or commands for those in bad situations. The seriousness he carries in his voice is enough to make you want to do everything to win that match. As soon as we would move on to another question, it’d get him laughing and back to being the easy-going 23-year-old he is off the mat. The quick transitions made by his students at war before me were obviously inspired by the ones in his own demeanor. For our interview I had my standard set of questions ready, but Bill’s natural quirkiness and ability to carry on a conversation allowed me the rare opportunity to delve deeper into the mind of “The Grill.”
How long have you been training jiu jitsu and how did you start?
I’ve been training for about 9 years; I started when I was 14. I was skateboarding in my neighborhood when Jeff Glover, who I had already known from the neighborhood, came over and tried to recruit some of us to go try it out. He had been doing it for a year already and said, “Dude, you should do jiu jitsu!” I said to him, “Nah I already did karate, dawg!” He claimed it was way cooler than karate so I said “alright” and skated down to the academy, Paragon BJJ Santa Barbara. I was sold and immediately told my mom that she was going to be paying the monthly dues for me to train. So she did.
When was your first competition?
I competed for the first time at 14 after 3 months of training. It was Cleber’s Copa Pacifica in Huntington Beach.
Were you automatically hooked after?
Actually, I really got hooked when a girl tapped me out in training. I was like, “wow this s#$% really works!” Also, I picked up the techniques quick because I break dance and the techniques resembled some moves I already knew. The armbar sweep was just like the windmill! It gave me confidence in the positions. As far as competitions and competing, I realized I wanted to keep doing it when I got a few gold medals at my first five competitions. I knew I wanted to be a black belt world jedi master.
What did you have to do to put it all into action?
I bugged a lot of people and companies for sponsorships and I eventually taught privates. I bugged everyone. At 15 when I was a blue belt I got my first sponsors which were Jiu Jitsu Pro Gear and TapOut. They helped with tournaments, food and hotels. The toughest part was hustling for carpools and gas. I was always begging people to let me ride with them since I didn’t get my license until I was 18. But I drove illegally starting when I was 15 and had to drive trucks when I worked for a moving company. I’d be backing up at 1 mph and yelling to my friend to make sure I wasn’t going to hit anything! Once I got to about purple/brown belt, though, it all changed and people started asking me if they could take me! Funny.
Did you have any back up plans? School? Other interests?
I used to want to go into the airforce and fly jet planes and also be a boxer. I finished high school and I took some college courses in auto mechanics during that time which was cool.
How often did you compete?
I started competing like every two months and did more and more as time went on. At 15 I got appendicitis and was out for 5 months. I had to get staples instead of stitches because the doctors said I had no body fat. I trained a little lightly during that time but it would start bleeding.
Where was your support coming from?
My mom paid my gym fees and then I got the sponsors.
What goals have you set out for yourself?
Black belt World Champion, UFC Champion, have a huge academy, make my son a champ.
How many goals have you accomplished so far?
Receiving my black belt, getting a silver medal at Worlds which was my first black belt competition. I lost to Sergio Moraes in the finals because I had run out of money before the match and so I couldn’t buy my gatorade. They had also run out of acai and I saw him eat two of them! And that’s why I lost.
Your MMA record as of now is 6-0-0 amatuer and 1-0-0 professional record. When did you decide to fight MMA?
I’ve wanted to fight MMA since I was 16/17 after I was Rickson Gracie’s movie “Choke.” I’ve been training since 17, but my first fight was when I was 20 after I got my black belt.
Has the journey to get to where you are now been harder than you expected? What sacrifices have you made?
Yeah but you can always make it harder. Challenge yourself. At this point it’s about making the fight easier. You make the training hard so the fight is easier. I’ve had to sacrifice time with my family. They live in Santa Barbara and I’m down here now.
With your success in MMA, is this an area you hope to dominate like you have in jiu jitsu?
Yes. I still don’t feel like I’ve dominated jiu jitsu. It’s cool that people think that and look at me like I’m special and I’ve done all these cool things. It gives me more energy and motivation to go for it. I haven’t showed my best yet.
What can you contribute to your success?
My coaches, my work ethic and I have a competitive spirit.
Rickson Gracie, Mark Kerr and Chuck Liddel
Margarita, Saulo Ribeiro, Comprito, Jeff Glover, Royler Gracie, Leozinho, Chris Holdsworth, Terere
Nope, I have no enemies.
My 32 minute match with Jeff Monson. It felt like David versus Goliath. Two of the most dangerous men fighting. Batman fighting Robin!
Make sure to look out for Bill Cooper’s Instructional DVD, the Deep Half Guard Killer out on 6/29/2011!
For more information on Bill’s academy visit www.ParagonAgouraHills.com