There are few men in mixed martial arts that have enjoyed the kind of success that Mark “The Hammer” Coleman has during the course of his illustrious career. A former UFC and Pride Grand Prix champion, Coleman was recently one of the very few fighters that have been named to the UFC’s newly formed hall of fame.
Coleman told FiveOuncesOfPain.com in an exclusive interview done in the days leading up to his highly anticipated return to the octagon that he is not satisfied with the ups and downs of his career. The forty four year old legend of the game feels as if there is plenty more for him to accomplish before he walks away from the sport that he has grown to love for good.
Dropping down to 205 pounds for the first time in his fighting career, Coleman will be looking to find new life in the UFC’s notoriously stacked light heavyweight division. The former Olympic wrestler was known for his freakish strength in the heavyweight division and will be certainly be one of the most powerful fighters competing at 205 pounds.
The first stop in Coleman’s comeback will see him facing off with an old foe in Mauricio “Shogun” Rua. The pairs previous meeting at a Pride FC event in February of 2006 ended in chaos. Rua’s arm was snapped in two after improperly defending a Coleman takedown and a small melee erupted between both fighters camps in the confusion that followed.
Coleman claims that he held no hard feeling towards Rua at the time but he has since been forced into making this bout a grudge match.
“I didn’t have any bad blood toward him initially but the way he’s been talking lately kind of changes things,” said Coleman. “He’s been claiming that I’ve been saying this and saying that.”
“He has made it personal, so because he’s made it personal I’ve been forced into making it personal.”
Coleman takes offense at the fact that Rua has stated that he feels the outcome of the fight had everything to do with luck and little to do with the takedown attempt. As he sees it, you have to create your own luck and that’s exactly what he went out and did.
“It’s just think that it’s kind of stupid,” said Coleman. “Say he slaps an armbar on me and I defend it the wrong way and my arm breaks from the armbar, I’m not going to go around saying that it was a lucky armbar. It’s the same thing in this situation. He posted wrong off of a double leg takedown and if he posts wrong in this fight there’s a good chance his arm will blow out again.”
“I’m sure he’s gone back and done his homework and looked at the film so he realizes that you have to keep your arms in next time. That’s the key. In any sport you have to keep your elbows in. You can never post your arm like that. Everybody knows that.”
“Even if there was some luck involved, you have to create your own luck in this sport. I’m the one that hit the single leg and switched it over to a double leg and I’m the one that forced him to post his arm like that.”
Coleman fought just once more after the bout with Rua, losing to Fedor Emelianenko by armbar back in October of 2006. After taking some necessary time off to allow injuries to heal, the father of two was back in the gym working on all of the same things that he has been working on for most of his life, imposing his will.
“I took about a year off to heal up after the Fedor fight but I’ve been back in the gym for a year now,” said Coleman. “I was training in West Virginia with Brandon Lee Hinkle and a couple of his boxing coaches and some of his jiu-jitsu guys.”
“I’ve been training a lot here in Columbus as well with my guys. I’ve been working with some local clubs around here and up at Ohio State University with the wrestling team.”
“I’ve just been continuing to work on my overall game but I’ve been really been focusing on my stand up. I’ve been working a lot on my stand up and of course I’m still trying to figure out this jiu-jitsu.”
The Coloumbus, Ohio native may not be known as a top level striker or even an elite submission specialist but he knows full well that he will have his advantages going into his fight with Rua and the power department rests comfortably at the top of that list.
“I definitely think I will have the strength advantage over Shogun,” said Coleman. “That’s one of the advantages that I do have against Shogun so I hope to be able to take full advantage of that weapon.”
Coleman feels healthy leading up to this extremely pivotal bout in his accomplished mixed martial arts career and most importantly, the weight cut has not had the affect on him that he thought it might of. Obviously many questions will arise about a massive fighter like Coleman when he decides to move down a weight class but as he tells it, the cut has been surprisingly easy for him.
“I’m feeling pretty good,” said Coleman. “I’ve been lucky, I got through this camp pretty healthy. The weight was a really big concern of mine. My diet has been really good and I have my weight under pretty good control. It shouldn’t be too much of a problem making weight. I’m really happy about that. I thought it was going to be a lot harder than I think it’s going to be.”
There was a motivating factor behind Coleman’s decision to make the drop down to 205 pounds. The men competing at heavyweight are just getting naturally bigger and along with many other guys that walk around near the 230 pound mark, Coleman was forced to make a decision. Stay at heavyweight and be the naturally smaller guy or attempt to make the drop to light heavyweight and be the naturally bigger guy.
“Everybody is just so much bigger now,” explained the founder of Team Hammer House. “I’m about six foot tall and I realized that anything over 225 or 230 pounds is just going to be fat. The guys that are coming out now are just so much bigger and so much stronger.”
“I said from the very beginning that size matters and it does. It just made sense for me to try to make the cut and it really wasn’t as hard a cut as I thought it would be.”
Whether it’s at heavyweight or light heavyweight, Coleman has never made it a habit to hand pick his opponents and he’s not about to start now.
“I’ll fight whoever the UFC offers to me,” said Coleman. “Whatever fight is offered to me, I’ll take. I don’t go around picking my opponents, that’s up to the promoter. I prefer to fight at 205 but if a big heavyweight fight came up, I would have to take it.”
When you talk about the growing size of the fighters competing in the heavyweight division you just have to bring up the recently crowned UFC interim heavyweight champion, Brock Lesnar. Walking around somewhere near the 300 pound range with an illustrious wrestling background to compliment his size, Lesnar poses a serious problem for any man competing in the UFC’s heavyweight division. The two were slated to meet in August at UFC 87 but a knee injury forced Coleman to pull out of the fight.
“Absolutely I would fight Brock Lesnar,” said Coleman. “If that opportunity came up I would give it a shot but there’s no denying that he is a big, big heavyweight. Like I said before, size matters, so it would be a challenge that I would have to overcome but it’s certainly one that I would give a shot at.”
At forty four years of age everyone wants to know how much longer Coleman plans on competing at the sports highest level. Coleman admits that even he doesn’t know the answer to that question. The godfather of the ground and pound doesn’t see his most recent bout with Rua as a curtain call but as the turning of a new page in his legendary fighting career.
“I think that there is a lot of stuff that I can still accomplish,” said Coleman. “I’m not satisfied at all with the ups and downs of my career. This is my job, this is what I do and this is what I love to do. Nobody wants to retire in this sport. I’ve been fortunate in the game. I’ve had my share of injuries but they’ve all healed up and I feel relatively fresh and healthy at this stage in my life. I take it one fight at a time but in the back of my head I hope to be fighting for at least two or three more years.”