He was a two-time UFC tournament winner and the first ever UFC heavyweight champion.
He won the first ever Pride Open Weight Grand Prix championship.
He’s now a UFC Hall of Famer.
For all the accolades, championships, trophies, and awards that he’s won, Mark “The Hammer” Coleman still sits in his house and wishes he could be back in the cage competing with the best in the world.
Throughout his storied career, Coleman had many ups and downs, bumps and bruises, but through it all he tackled MMA with a ferociousness that few have been able to match inside or outside the cage. Known as the “Godfather of Ground and Pound,” Coleman adapted his wrestling style to a vicious attack that continues to evolve to this day as shown by fighters like current UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez and middleweight Mark Munoz.
Now at 46 years of age, Coleman is still a loving father to his children and he loves talking MMA because he spent so much of his life being part of the sport. Still he can’t help but to miss it all.
From the biggest wins to the most heartbreaking losses, Coleman misses each and every part of fighting.
“I miss every aspect about fighting except maybe the brutal beatdowns you’ve got to take some days. Actually, I wish I was heading to practice right now getting ready for a two-hour beatdown or beat somebody down and then recover. It was just living a dream. You look back at it, I was living a dream,” Coleman told MMAWeekly Radio.
When Coleman entered the UFC for the first time back in 1996, it was still considered an “outlaw” sport. States were running away from allowing the competition to take place and despite a fevered fan base still following the UFC, the athletes weren’t getting the kind of paydays that fighters like Georges St-Pierre and Brock Lesnar enjoy today.
But for all of its shortcomings at the time, Coleman embraced MMA as his home.
“When the sport started, I prayed it was for real,” Coleman said. “I knew that’s what I wanted to do and it was real and I was lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time.”
Coleman’s career was an amazing journey from his victory over Dan Severn to win the UFC heavyweight title to the moment when he finished off Igor Vovchanchyn to take home the Pride Grand Prix title all the way to his losses to Fedor Emelianenko and his final fight against Randy Couture, he wouldn’t change a thing.
But it was the loss to Randy Couture on Feb. 6, 2010, that did break his heart.
“Randy Couture, he’s one heck of an opponent. I give him nothing but credit. He was incredibly tough that night, and I didn’t have no answers for him. I pretty much froze up and he took my heart out that night,” Coleman admitted.
Heartbroken to walk away from the UFC, Coleman can’t help but long for his best days as a fighter, but he’s big enough to admit that those times are behind him.
Still, the former Ohio State All-American loves watching the sport continue to evolve. Coleman says he loves to watch fighters like Georges St-Pierre go out and fight, and looks at wrestlers like Daniel Cormier as the future of MMA.
Any time a fighter pays homage to him or mentions his name, Coleman can’t help but sit back in awe that what he did was good enough for his legacy to carry forward to today.
“It’s very humbling,” said Coleman. “I’m amazed at how far this sport has come. Dana White has done an amazing job getting it on Fox TV, and these athletes how far they taken this sport.”
It’s not something Coleman really lives with these days, but he will readily point out that if he could climb back in the Octagon tomorrow and it would be a good decision, he’d sign the contract and get ready to fight right now.
But if his fight with Randy Couture is indeed his last one ever, Coleman doesn’t need to go into a long diatribe about where it all went wrong or how he wishes he could have won that night just to get another fight. He boils it down very simply, because in his heart Mark Coleman was always a simple man who was living a dream.
“That’s the way it goes,” Coleman said in closing about his fight with Couture.