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WSOF 31: Josh Copeland won't be 'cuddly' with Blagoy Ivanov on June 17

World Series of Fighting (WSOF) 31: "Ivanov vs. Copeland" takes place June 17, 2016 at the Foxwoods Resort Casino in Mashantucket, Conn. talks to heavyweight fighter Josh "Cuddly Bear" Copeland about challenging Blagoy Ivanov for the title in the main event.

World Series of Fighting

World Series of Fighting (WSOF) 31: "Ivanov vs. Copeland" comes to Foxwoods Resort Casino in Mashantucket, Conn., on June 17, 2016. The main event will see Blagoy Ivanov make his second heavyweight title defense against Josh "Cuddly Bear" Copeland.

Copeland's nickname belies his deadly ferocity in the cage. He's only been beaten three times in 15 professional fights (12-3), and has split his 12 wins equally between knockouts, submissions, and decisions (four of each). His only loss since leaving UFC was to former Bellator champion Vitaly Minakov.

All of those skills will be put to the test against Ivanov (13-1, 1 NC), whose only professional loss to date was to Alexander Volkov in the finals of a Bellator tournament. talked to Copeland about his title shot at WSOF 31, his history in mixed martial arts, and whether or not he become the latest fighter to unseat a current world champion.

Copeland sharpens his game at the Grudge Training Center in Arvada, Colo., and says Trevor Wittman and the team have him on point for his title shot on June 17. Wittman's also the one who gave him his unusual nickname.

"We were heading back from wrestling four or five years ago, and he told me 'Man we've gotta get you a nickname.' I told him 'Every time I grapple with Alvin Robinson he always called me The Bear.' I told him that I didn't really like that because it sounded a little too mean -- I'm more like a cuddly bear. Trevor just started laughing and he was like 'Dude that's perfect - that's it - Cuddly Bear.' So it just kinda stuck since then."

Copeland wasn't cuddling with Mike "300" Hayes at WSOF 29. He repeatedly set up Hayes with a left jab then blasted him with the right when he had the range, but the durable Hayes (only one career loss by KO) weathered the storm.

"Man. He did a great job of pulling away just at the right time. You get the best knockouts when they come forward and you can step forward and crack 'em (and) I kept trying to time that but he kept pulling away. It would never be the full on head on hand collision you know?"

Hayes may have survived but it was Copeland who picked up the unanimous decision and subsequent title shot against Ivanov. He wasn't expecting it to come this soon but he's happy to have the chance.

"So Ray (Sefo) called me and asked me if I'd fight Chris Barnett. He said the winner of that would get a title shot. I told him 'Let's do it' and he said he was going to write up some numbers and get back with me later on. He wound up calling me the next day and told me 'It's been a crazy 24 hours' and apparently their No. 1 contender pulled out. He was like 'Any chance you'd be interesting in fighting for the title?' I said 'Man let's do it!'"

On his road to become the champion Ivanov also fought the grim reaper and won, coming back from a nearly fatal stabbing in 2012 which put him out of action for over a year. Copeland knows Ivanov is as tough as they come.

"(I've got to) hit him and hit him hard and repeatedly. I'm a firm believer him and I both hit too hard to go to a decision but I don't know. I'm about 20 pounds lighter than I was for that Mike Hayes fight. Honestly with my style I think I'll be a tough match up just using footwork and movement and not standing in front of him to land a straight left you know?"

Ivanov isn't the only world champion Russian that Copeland has had to face. He traveled to Moscow to face Vitaly Minakov at a point before he was stripped of the Bellator title and says it was an honor to compete with him.

"He's good man. He's really good you know? That was a last minute fight. Vitaly's a stud, and there's no shame in losing to a guy that nobody's been able to beat yet. He's relentless you know? I definitely had small victories in that (fight) though. He's a four time world sambo champ and I was able to get out of two submissions and get back to my feet twice."

Copeland is aiming for more than "small victories" with Ivanov. Even his diet has changed before this fight.

"To be honest I'm eating more than I had been before -- (I'm) just eating the right things and eating clean. It's crazy how the weight just keeps coming off even though I'm taking in well over four thousand calories a day."

He believes his recent weight loss could make a difference if the fight goes to the championship rounds.

"That's another reason I wanted to get my diet right too you know? If losing 20 pounds will allow me to move and use angles for another two minutes, that's an extra 15% of the fight that I can move just because I cut 20 pounds off. I feel like I move better and I'm quicker. You lose weight (it) may be easier to get taken down but you make up for it with speed and a little agility. It's always a push pull (but) I'm definitely training for five rounds."

Come June 17 at the Foxwoods Resort Casino in Mashantucket we'll see how Copeland's improvements play out.

"I've been having a great camp and this is the best I've felt and I'm ready to go."

The complete audio of our interview is below and complete fight coverage is HERE on


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