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Chronicling my love/hate relationship with Coleman vs. Rua

The UFC 93 co-main event between Mauricio “Shogun” Rua and Mark Coleman was one of the sloppiest featured PPV fights I have watched in recent memory. However, despite the lack of technical prowess on display, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

You might be asking how I was able to enjoy a fight as sloppy as Coleman vs. Rua II and my reason is because from a fan’s perspective, the fight took me on a roller coaster ride of emotions. During the course of the nearly 15 minutes, I experienced a love/hate fascination with the bout like no other.

One of the most memorable fights I have ever witnessed was Coleman being upset by Maurice Smith at UFC 14 in 1997. At the time, Coleman was considered the top fighter in MMA. Personally, I loved seeing Coleman, the UFC’s first-ever heavyweight champion, back after 10 years away from the Octagon.

And while I loved seeing Coleman back, I hated seeing a man a 44-years old man slugging it out with a fighter 17 years his junior. Coleman appeared to be in great shape for a 44-year old man, but he still looked like a 44-year old man.

I also loved seeing Rua back in action after nearly a year and a half layoff due to a chronic knee injury. Once considered one of the top light heavyweight fighters in the world, the idea of possibly seeing Rua return to form made the match exciting for me.

However, I hated seeing Rua struggle for much of the fight to put away a 44-year old man who was gassed by the middle of the first round. Any hope that Rua would resume being the dynamic talent he showed during his PRIDE days quickly evaporated when the same stamina issues that hurt him vs. Forrest Griffin at UFC 76 were on display again vs. Coleman.

As tough as it was to see Rua compete as a shadow of his former self, it was a thrill getting to see Coleman make a go of it and create the possibility that we might see a dramatic upset. But in the end, the thrill ride that Coleman vs. Rua took me on wasn’t worth it. Seeing an aging Coleman absorb strike after strike because he was too tired to keep his hands up began to feel unseemly.

Yes, I enjoy the not so intellectual practice of seeing grown men (and women) fight. However, that doesn’t make me heartless. I respect Coleman’s contributions to the sport and the impact he’s had and because of that, I don’t want to see him take another beating like he did last night ever again. I realize he has two daughters to support, but what good is he going to be to them if he has permanent brain damage? Hearing Coleman campaign for a third fight vs. Rua was tough for me to stomach.

Watching Coleman fight evoked memories of past episodes of HBO’s Real Sports in which ex-NFL players were depicted as struggling with life after football. Despite having once been world class athletes in their primes, retirement has brought them divorce, major financial hardships, as well as declining health. I don’t want to see Coleman head down that road.

The news that Coleman vs. Rua received a co-“Fight of the Night” bonus has been met with a negative reaction from many people. However, considering Coleman’s contributions to the sport and the fact that many people that know him have told me he’s not doing so great financially these days, anything done to put an additional $40,000 in his pocket is an awesome move in my book.

There has to be a place in MMA for Coleman, one of the sport’s true heroes. However, that place is no longer in the ring or cage as an active competitor.

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