This is the fourth in a series of stories focusing on the next generation of MMA talent here on the North Coast, as Humboldt Sports takes a closer look at the many rising local stars in the sport.
By Ray Hamill — For Ross Lopez, what didn’t kill him has literally made him a stronger person.
In what has been a rollercoaster of a ride so far, his MMA career almost cost him his life at one stage, before ultimately saving it and giving him a direction and purpose he never had before.
“It’s the only place I feel at home,” Lopez said of the gym. “And it’s also given me a family.”
The San Diego transplant fights out of the Lost Boys gym in Arcata and is expected to turn pro in 2021.
And according to his coach Brian Wilson, Lopez is ready for the leap.
“Ross is probably one of our most versatile fighters,” Wilson said. “His ability to transition from striking to wrestling to jiu jitsu is amazing.”
It certainly hasn’t been an easy path for the 24-year-old Lopez.
In 2018, he almost died after making an extreme weight cut, going from 220 pounds to 175 in three months before then dropping 30 more pounds in a week.
“I cut so much weight I had kidney and liver failure,” he said. “It kicked me in the butt a little bit, and after that I made a lot of changes.”
The setbacks, however, did not end there.
In addition to losing close friend Jeremy Ashley, who passed away a few years ago, Lopez also lost his grandmother right before his comeback fight, at a time when his mother was also hospitalized after suffering a heart attack.
“It was very hard there for a while,” he admitted. “It was the first time in a fight where I didn’t want to be there.”
It was also his first and only loss, and Lopez says all of the setbacks — including a torn meniscus in his left knee at one stage — have made him stronger.
According to Wilson, he’s also one of the smartest fighters in the area.
“He has great endurance and he’s very skilled,” Wilson added. “He has very good fighter IQ. He’s very smart, intelligent.”
For Lopez, it all began five years ago when he arrived in Humboldt County, moving here from San Diego shortly after high school.
“I came up here to Humboldt County at a moment’s notice. I was trying to run away from my life,” he said. “I just needed to move away and this was the farthest I could go and still be in California.”
It didn’t take long for Lopez to find a new home, after quickly making friends with Ashley, who introduced him to the Fifth Street boxing club in Eureka.
It quickly became an obsession for Lopez.
“We would train till 2 in the morning and then wake up and do it all over again,” he said. “I was going through a break-up and I didn’t know anybody in Humboldt County. It was a hard time, and training with Jeremy helped.”
Ashley introduced Lopez to Orion Cosce, who introduced him to the Lost Boys.
“The Lost Boys have been my family ever since,” he said.
Fighting mostly at 155 pounds, Lopez has put together a 4-1 record in MMA — as well as an additional win in kick boxing — to set himself up for the next logical step.
“My goal is to be pro and make a serious run at that,” he said.
In addition to turning pro soon, Lopez says he is loving life these days and is in “a good place,” including a new job as a car salesman at Mid City Motor World.
“I’m doing all the things I wanted to do,” he said. “And it’s coming together.”
Like just about every top MMA fighter here on the North Coast, Lopez also credits his wrestling background to setting him on the path to where he is now, having competed in the sport all four years in high school.