Sports Podcaster Turns to Mafia with "The Life" Podcast

Jim Cooley (and BIG MF Matt Freeman) together host The Last Round, a major sports podcast that features interviews with fighters, athletes, wrestlers and more. It garners nearly a half-million monthly listeners.

Jim also is a former MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) fighter. So Jim can kick serious ass, in other words. In fact, he kicks ass in this interview by being remarkably candid and honest.

 He graciously and generously provided heartfelt answers to every question I asked. Thanks, man....

Jim Cooley interviews mobsters
Jim Cooley hosts a sports podcast; he debuted another, called The Life, about the mob.

Jim recently started another show, called The Life, about the Mafia. Up to 30,000 folks listen in on each episode. And he counts guys like Carmine Persico and Thomas (Tommy Karate) Pitera as his personal friends. (Jim hooked us up, too. Some may recall my shout out.)

In fact, Pitera, as you'll read, told Jim: "I trust you with my life."

And what's really interesting about The Life podcast is that Carmine Persico, alleged boss of the Colombo crime family,  gave Jim the idea for the show. Read along and you'll see how......

How did the idea for the show develop? 
The show developed in sort of a crazy way. You actually might say that it was Carmine Persico's idea. Already I have been doing a very successful sports podcast. I had often considered doing a mob podcast. My issue was with my personal podcast model. One is that I only like to interview very famous and established subjects. Guys and girls who have already made it and are household names, to at least some extent. With the LCN Podcast I just was not sure it could sustain.

I had written a letter to Carmine in the past. I never received a response and figured I never would. However, sometime later, I got a letter containing some things from his attorney, Mat Mari.

Mat said that my letter had touched Carmine, and he saw something in it. Mat said, "How could you help?

"Carmine was hoping you could help us get the word out about his various appeals and parole hearing."

I said, Well, listen, I have a full studio and I interview people everyday. How about we do an interview?

He said that that was exactly what Carmine and he were thinking. So the first episode was all about Carmine. It was a very good interview with my now friend Mathew J. Mari esq. From there I became the social media liaison for Carmine, and the Life podcast was born.

Tell us about your background in radio, podcasting, etc. including some of the people you have interviewed?
I started out doing a small radio show in Northern California in the '90s. At the time I was heavily involved in professional wrestling and a local DJ noticed me and brought me on to host his show, "SLAMMIN' WITH KC." Eventually, it became SLAMMIN WITH KC AND COOLEY." It was fun and lasted about a year. Being an ex-MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) fighter and so forth, I got into ring announcing and eventually started my top 50 iTunes podcast called "The Last Round."

I shot for the stars with guests. Mike Tyson was on my 9th show. I have had Evander Holyfield, Mark Wahlberg, Larry Holmes and tons of UFC fighters and boxers. The New York connection, Paulie Maliganggi, has been on a few times. I love the show. We tape every Thursday.

Who do you try to reach and what is your personal philosophy on your approach to your material?
My primary audience for the Last Round is of course sports fans. UFC and boxing fans and wrestling fans, mostly. But we have had NFL players and NBA players on. So our 70,000 to 100,000 listeners a week are sports fans. With the LCN Podcast it is a lot of Mafia historians and, for lack of a better term, fans. We have around 30,000 listeners an episode. The show blew up fast thanks to sites like this and guys like you.

It also helps that I have a personal relationship with these guys. My approach is, like I said, top-name interviews and I say what I feel. Don't hold back. My co-host on the Last Round, Matt Freeman, is a nut and I love him for it. He says what I won't say, and vice versa. We recently added UFC Bantamweight Leslie Smith as our 2nd co-host each week. Eric Smith is my co-host on the Life LCN Podcast. He has done federal time and was the president of a high-profile motorcycle club.

 So we have the knowledge and background on both shows.

As for your Mob podcast The Life -- who have you spoken with and who would you like to speak with on the show?
I have interviewed Frank Cullotta, Michael Franzese, Larry Mazza (as yet unrealeased ), John Binder, world-renowned Chicago Outfit expert and others. My goal is to get Tommy (Pitera, aka Tommy Karate) on the show. He is very guarded and does NOT do interviews. So it would be like two friends chatting, nothing about his case or anything. Also I hope to get Carmine free and interview him in person. Other guys intrigue me as well and I will be letting people know soon.

What are some of the most interesting things about the mob you have learned from interviewing all these various sources?
Man... just how normal these guys are. Talking to Franzese was such a treat, he's such a well-spoken man. Here is a guy who made more money in Cosa Nostra than pretty much anyone! That gasoline racket was worth a fortune -- and he was so humble. He is now doing the motivational speaker and religious thing. It is cool how down to earth he was.

Frank Cullotta described the Lisner murder on air and it was almost comical when he said it. Listen a man dying is never comical but it was just so surreal. (We agree and wrote about the Lisner hit here.)

I enjoy talking to these guys. I am a journalist, I do not diversify the so-called rats and so forth. Obviously I respect the guys who stood up and did their own time. But I give people equal opportunity. Coming from the streets and having done so-called gangster shit myself on my level it is hard when people say ratlover and so forth. But the truth is guys like Cullotta and Bulger have shown my family amazing respect and kindness. So as far as I am concerned they are good guys.

(We at Cosa Nostra News agree with you, Jim, 100%. And anyone who uses words like rat-lover doesn't understand 1) the journalism craft and 2) certain realities about life, in addition to The Life. 

(Your fans know you are on a quest to find people who lived unbelievable lives who every single day said, saw and experienced things nearly incomprehensible to mainstream folks.)

Also Roberto Falcon of the Commission and myself are opening a new website keep an eye out for it. Mostly just historical mafia stuff. We leave the new news to guys in the know, like yourself. But we want to bring history with the new website. Look for Roberto on the podcast as well. And a big thank you to the Commission for the support, Gar, and the admins and members have given the podcast

How can people access your shows?
The LifeA podcast with and about Mafia, Organized Crime and Law Enforcement.
The Last Round Up: A show about sports. MMA/UFC, Boxing, Wrestling. With tons of interviews of Fighters, Athletes, Wrestlers and more. 

Voice of ChampionsHome of Jim Cooley

Can you give us some background on the mob figures you personally know, like Carmine and Tommy?
I am super close with Tommy now. He recently said, "Jim I trust you with my life" it means a lot to me. I handle his artwork and donations for him. I am the go between for him and others. Basically I am Tommy Karate's rep. And that is so surreal to say. But we talk on the phone a lot. He makes me laugh. We talk life and so forth. He is in good spirits. Things are going well with his art as well. I am also very close with Jimmy Bulger. The stigma around that haunts me, but listen. Here is a guy who sent my Mother a get-well card after chemo and her surgery. He does not even know her. But she is my mom we are friends and that's what he did. For the record I do not believe Jimmy killed any women. And I am not convinced he ever ratted. That is my obviously biased opinion.

I spent a birthday with Frank Culotta. He is like a surrogate father to me. He and my mom text and chat and get along great. He gives me life advice and I can call him with any ridiculous mafia related questions. He will call me a jagoff and tell me 100 stories and we will laugh the whole time. He will say, "Jimmy you motherfucker you got me started now you jagoff you" lol after I get him on a tangent.

I am close with Louis Epolitto and of course have  open communication with Carmine Persico who has invited me to have a meal with his family when he gets out. I work closely with his granddaughter Desiree as well, on everything we do on the web. The Persico family has welcomed me in, including Carmine himself.

How is Carmine feeling, considering the recent ruling -- and how's his family doing? 
He is of course sad, but I can't see him being upset. Carmine is NOT the give-up type.

 This is not over and with Mat in his corner he had a shot. We still have mandated parole hearing, more appeals and the supreme court. His family has faith he will get home.

With Tommy, any insight into how he's holding?
TOMMY is holding up amazingly. He wants out and is looking to take his case to the private forensics world. Spil experts and so forth. He is taking donations for his legal fund and when u donate u may get some of his artwork.

But he is always laughing. It is crazy to say but he is such a good friend now, I feel like I know him so well. But I feel he is sad he is locked up. But he has high hopes. We deal with the Alite situation as well. Tommy gives me info, I get info from John. Sort of a go between as far as the discrepancies in stories. But to answer your question Tommy is great -- donate and get some artwork!

More shows coming soon!  I love everything you are doing here at cosanostranews. I appreciate the story and the interview. Love reading your articles.

Thank you, Jim! Everyone should definitely check out THE LIFE and THE LAST ROUND!