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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.

  • Jeff L says:

    I didn’t know about Coleman’s financial woes, although I’m not surprised. In that context, it’s not too hard to disagree that the bonus was given. Especially since they gave two FOTN bonuses, so it’s not like it took it out of anyone else’s pocket. Hard to fault the UFC for that, although undoubtedly many will anyway. Nice piece, Sam. I imagine we will see Coleman again, although I wonder against who. Hopefully not another much younger striker, as I agree with your sentiment, I really dont want to see that.

  • Jeremy says:

    I gotta agree with you totally Sam on that article. That fight was an emotional rollercoaster for a fan to watch. It was great to see Coleman in the cage again, but seeing him gassed and taking such a beating was crazy. But even though, he never gave up, and in the end I, along with the crowd seemed to be rooting for him. It’s that courage/bravery/insanity that brings you in to a fight, and why I have no problem with them giving them a fight of the night bonus. Yes, Davis/Lytle was a better fight, but the craziness of the Coleman/Rua fight was right up there.

  • TongPoBangkok says:

    I remember ‘bigging’ Shogun up to my friends, showing his highlights on youtube and promising he was gonna murder Griffin. No dice.
    I argued his corner with the knee injury angle, but last night was just plain embarrassing.

    Regardless whether or not Coleman has financial troubles at all, that shouldnt warrant him getting a bonus he plain didnt deserve (Shogun included).
    There are plenty of undercard guys struggling to make ends meet, guys that come in to fight in great shape, and put on far better showings, but dont get a sympathy bonus based on their history in the sport

  • KTru says:

    In total agreement with the previous responses. Great article Sam. Lets take a second to think what would have happened if Coleman does not injure himself and fights Lesnar back in August…. Scary, isnt it?

  • oneMMAfan says:

    Absolutely fantastic article Sam! Couldn’t agree with u more.

  • blake says:

    sam, i love your articles, and you are dead on with this article except the

    “despite the lack of technical prowess”

    you kidding me? this fight was the result of a lack of conditioning (or the wrong kind of conditioning). coleman still knows how to wrestle and rua with the muay thai and bjj. skill sets were on display they were just too tired to keep their hands up.

    these guys both gassed early.

    i agree that dana threw the guys a bone when he made this a fight of the night.

    great article!

  • marc in b.c. says:

    Thought the fight was an emberassment for the UFC. Obviously they don’t feel the same way what with the extra fight of the night bonus being awarded. I understand it is hard for some of these older guys to walk away, especially with the higher paydays nowadays, but I really hope this was Coleman’s last fight. As for Rua, I was not impressed with his performance (to quote GSP). He made almost no attempt to defend against strikes and his cardio was awful. If he looks the same in his bout vs Liddel, Rua will go down as one of the best fighters that never was. That said, I am still a fan and really hope he takes a good look at his performance and makes the necessary changes in his training.

  • NJMMAFAN says:

    I cant believe more people arent upset that rua put on that kind of show. Coleman could barely stand up straight after the first round, and despite the fact that he was exhausted and slow, still landed takedowns at will, and did a decent job of countering with the jab. I wouldnt have stopped the fight like that with only 30 left to go either considering coleman looked that way pretty much all fight, and went for a leg as the ref jumped in, i believe had he gotten that leg he’d have taken rua down again. After watching last night, i gotta believe chuck will finish rua in their bout, as i dont see much left in rua’s tank.

  • Cathedron says:

    Rua embarrassed himself yet again. He gassed almost as quickly as Coleman, but he doesn’t have as good an excuse as Coleman who is old and carries too much mucle.

    That was the worst fight of the night by far. Dana was clearly donating to the Mark Coleman Charitable Foundation. I bet he hated giving that money to Rua, though, considering that Rua is one loss or at least one bad performance away from from getting his contract “re-evaluated”.

  • mike wolfe says:

    I had several different reactions while watching this fight. One was complete surprise at how quickly both gassed out. Another was Rua’s inability to finish Coleman until the very end of the third round, and that happened only because Coleman was too tired to hold his arms up. Unless Rua dramatically increases his stamina, he cannot compete with even lower echelon fighters in the UFC. Even at 205 I don’t think he would be competitive against middleweights who came in at 185.

    Sam wrote an article several weeks ago about the old PRIDE fighters and how their era had passed. I thought about that article as I watched the fight and how it proved Sam’s point.

    Finally, I think everyone including the harshest critics have to acknowledge how the sport has improved during the UFC era. Is there any legitimate argument that the current group of MMA fighters in that org. are the best conditioned and most well rounded? After watching Coleman, Kang and Rua, and an indecisive fight between Henerson and Franklin, I don’t think so.

  • HexRei says:

    Uh, are you seriously suggested Franklin and Hendo had poor conditioning? Were we watching the same fight?

  • Tyler says:

    If you watched the Henderson and Franklin fight they were both fighting at a pretty good pace and kept it up for the full three rounds. I wouldn’t say either gassed. Even Rogan correctly pointed out they were going at a fast pace. Which almost made up for his obvious favoritism for Jeremy Horn is his fight but not quite.

  • themindone says:

    the fight sucked..

    it just was to get colman money .. well next time leave ufc fans out of it.. give him some office job or something.. what a waste..

  • Pleau says:

    This fight was a hard one to watch. I’m a huge Shogun Rua fan, and it was painful to see him tire halfway into the fight. Why he’s having problems with his conditioning is beyond me and only known to him. It could be the long layoff from fighting. I just hope its not due to his new camp, Universidade de Luta, not challenging him the way he was when he was at Chute Boxe Academy.

    As for Coleman, I’m not a diehard fan of his but have an immense amount of respect for everything he’s accomplished–namely, winning the 2000 Pride Grand Prix and making an ass of himself in celebration afterwards. There might be one or two fights for him worth making at his age. A battle of Hall of Famers between Coleman and Couture at either LHW or HW could anchor any card.

    If it is true that he’s having financial trouble, then I think the UFC owes it to him to compensate for his post-fighting days. A job doing guest color commentary would be great in either the UFC or WEC.

  • NJMMAFAN says:

    Tyler-i caught that total nutthuggery from rogan to horn as well, saying how horn had him where he wanted him, after losing two rounds and being on his way to losing a third. IMO Coleman v Randy wouldnt be very entertaining as i would take randy by late 1st early 2nd finish, however a rubber match for rua and coleman would be something that would be interesting. That way no contender gets an easy W against them, and we can see if they come in any sharper, cause if not dana should release them. At least that way coleman gets another payday and he and rua can settle their series. And as far as guest commentator goes, why not fire rogan and goldberg and hire Bas and Coleman, or Bill Goldberg…Someone who wont screw up more than four times a card.

  • kokondo says:

    I disagree with a couple points. I do agree that this was a painful fight to watch until Rua gassed and then I found myself believing that maybe he aging Coleman could pull it out. I dont think Coleman sustained that much damage due to Rua being tired. It looked like Coleman was looking for a way out, or was so tired the weak punchs of a gassed Rua were excentuated.

    The main point I disagree with was giving it FOTN. The fight was not fight of the night caliber and was arguably bad for the sport. It is going to bring up, as already mentioned in this article and the comments, the debate of when is enough enough for aging fighters. Giving the fight the added noteriety of FOTN ‘honors’ is a terrible call. I doubt that the designation was so Coleman could get extra $$, that could have come in the form of a locker room bonus. I would love to hear the reason why Dana gave it them.

    All this said, I would love to see a third fight with both fighters properly prepared. I was impressed with Coleman before he gassed and especially impressed with his heart throughout.

  • glock says:

    If they gave them FOTN bonuses to help out Coleman, I think that’s great -and to me, a sign the Zuffa is maturing as an organization .

    More importantly, they probably also stood to benefit from making it a self fulfilling prophecy; promote a predictably lame fight as an “even the score war” then if it actually turns out interesting, give a FOTN bonus to publicize it, kinda saying, “See how smart we are? we told you it would be great”….Leverage that payout, baby…..

    Another thought is that rua maybe didn’t take the fight seriously, and never expected that he might even need his corner stool. I would have expected coleman to gas, but there’s no excuse for rua.

  • NJMMAFAN says:

    Yea the more i think about it the more it seemed like a geriatric throwdown. its ok for coleman to look 44, it isnt ok for rua to look 44. granted he didnt look that bad againt forrest, but still as a pro you probably shouldnt come in to a fight as unprepared as they were because to me, if you wanna talk about not being professional, a non-fan turning it on i imagine would find it very unprofessional to see two pro fighters practically reaching for an oxygen mask at the end of the first round.

  • DAVE (formally Thorazine) says:

    Sam, wellll bite my nuts, I saw the same Coleman VS Maurice Smith back in day, and Coleman gassed out then as well, the only difference is now he gasses out sooner than later!


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