There aren’t many fighters who can claim to have the experience or success of Mark Coleman. The 47-year old Hall of Famer not only won a pair of UFC tournaments in the organization’s early days but also laid claim to the company’s inaugural heavyweight title, a PRIDE Open Weight Grand Prix crown, and even a victory inside the Octagon a few years ago against Stephan Bonnar despite being in his mid-forties.
“The Hammer” recently looked back on his career while speaking with Inside MMA where he touched on a number of topics including his glory days, a controversial moment occurring after one of his fights with Fedor Emelianenko, and whether or not there were any opponents still piquing his interest.
“I’ll be honest with you. It’s easier to win the belt than to keep the belt,” said Coleman of his early run in the UFC where he won gold only to lose it in his first defense. “Nothing against Mo Smith but if I would’ve prepared properly I think I would’ve destroyed him. But I didn’t because I didn’t prepare properly, he did, and what a humbling, humbling experience.”
Coleman took that humility with him to PRIDE where, entering the 2000 Open Weight Grand Prix with a 1-1 record in the promotion, the godfather of ground-and-pound surprised all by emerging as the tournament’s champion.
“The critics are usually right but you can prove em wrong sometimes,” Coleman fondly reflected.
Another bout under the PRIDE banner fans likely remember is Coleman’s encounter with Emelianenko at PRIDE 32 where, after losing, the decorated wrestler brought his terrified daughters into the ring to spend time with them. While Coleman didn’t say he regretted the decision, he did make it clear he received a lot of heat and appeared to be genuinely affected on an emotional level by the situation.
“It was a tough night because I took a lot of criticism from a lot of fans and a lot of professionals claiming that I traumatized my daughters. And at the time, being a dad, it was the most important thing to me. I just remember very clearly…I don’t mind losing, I just don’t wanna hurt my kids,” a tearful Coleman expressed.
Looking forward, Coleman stopped short of guaranteeing a return to the ring but acknowledged he could be swayed to do so if the right situation appeared. Likewise, the 16-10 competitor doesn’t appear to have any interest in taking on the next generation of Mixed Martial Artists but wouldn’t mind getting his hands on a legend or two.
“It seems to always come down to one guy…Tito…what’s his last name? Oh yeah, Tito Ortiz. Dan Severn, he’s the one calling me out every day. He wants a revenge match versus me but I keep telling him, he’s 280 pounds and needs to lose some weight and then maybe I’ll think about it. Dan Severn, Ken Shamrock, Tito Ortiz…other than that…I gotta get in shape,” admitted Coleman, perhaps indicative he is enjoying retirement a little too much to return after all.
Meanwhile, though his fighting future is up in the air, Coleman’s main focus moving forward will be on his aforementioned daughters who are now both athletes in their own right. From world champion to proud father, Coleman’s journey has been an eventful one with no signs of slowing down in the immediate future. We should all be so lucky at his age.
Watch the full interview below:
PHOTO CREDIT – FEG/UFC