Mark Coleman Interview
If you ever scoffed at the notion of a mixed martial artist getting better with age, then look no further than this Saturdayís main event at ďUFC 109: Relentless.Ē Two UFC Hall of Famers, 46-year-old five-time UFC champion Randy ďThe NaturalĒ Couture and 45-year-old former Ohio State national champion wrestler Mark Coleman, will square off in a fight where the combined age of the competitors tops an incredible 90.
Couture and Coleman may be anomalies in the sports world, but the fact that these two legends can still be going strong is a testament to the work ethic and desire to compete that is prevalent in the world of mixed martial arts. The fact that two ageless veterans can headline a card during Super Bowl weekend, typically one of the biggest shows of the year for the Ultimate Fighting Championship, in a fight that has been dreamed about for years is almost unfathomable.
What is even better is that the two men, especially Coleman, seem to be getting better with age. Coleman was forced into the role of family man during the prime of his career and during his days in Japanís PRIDE Fighting Championships, which forced him to stay in his hometown of Columbus to be near his two daughters while running his own training camps. Colemanís daughters are now old enough to understand and accept that their dad needs the best training in the world, and Coleman has drastically improved with stints in Las Vegas for his last two fights.
David McKinney was recently able to catch up with Coleman in between training sessions for the fight, and he told me about how this is the biggest fight of his career.[/quote]
David McKinney: Tell me about how this fight with Randy Couture came about.
Mark Coleman: Pretty much just being in the right place at the right time. I won at UFC 100 against Stephan Bonnar, which had a lot to do with it. I wasnít anticipating getting such a big fight from that, but there are a lot of injuries in the UFC right now and they needed a headliner and things just fell into place.
DM: This is a fight that has been more than a decade in the making. Are you excited that it has finally come to fruition between two UFC Hall of Famers and perhaps the two best wrestlers to ever step foot into the Octagon?
MC: Yeah, this is as big as it gets for me. This is a huge opportunity for me to take a closer step towards a title shot, which is still my ultimate goal. I donít go around picking and choosing who I fight. I do consider Randy a good friend and I donít want to fight him for any other reason than the fact thatís heís a Hall of Famer and a legend. This is a fight that Iíve been asked over and over again for the last ten years about when I was going to fight Randy. Itís great that I can now answer that question: February 6.
DM: Randy has talked a lot about how he plans to avoid your wrestling in this fight. Are you going to stick with your wrestling roots and try to win the fight that way?
MC: Well what Randy says and what Randy does are two different things. Iím hearing different things. Iíve been hearing that heís planning on doing a lot of wrestling. To counteract my wrestling heís been working a lot on wrestling. To neglect wrestling in preparation for a fight with me would definitely be a mistake. But hopefully, I plan on using my striking and turning this into a standup game. I feel like I can hit a lot harder than him and like I can take a better punch than him. As far as practice goes, Iím very comfortable with the standup game. Itís just whether I can do it on fight night. Iím the one who has to worry about getting too excited with the standup and giving up the easy takedown to him.
DM: I know youíve trained a lot with Shawn Tompkins. Do you credit your improved standup to working with a top-level kickboxing coach?
MC: Shawn has helped out, but I donít give him all of the credit. Just the fact that Iíve been concentrating on it and getting myself in better shape and just being able to go out there and not worry about it. In the past I wasnít comfortable standing up so it would lead to mental fatigue. The worries and the stress about being on my feet would make me tired. But now Iíve been doing a lot of sparring and I feel comfortable standing up.
DM: Dana White has said that you need this win more than Randy. Youíve said that this is the biggest fight of your career. How do you prepare for a fight with pressure like that on you?
MC: The pressure comes with the territory. Thatís what a real athlete looks for. I accept and I want the pressure. If I canít rise to the occasion under pressure then I donít deserve to be here. Iím just very happy to have this opportunity for such a big fight. Really both of us are just going out there for the love of the sport. I see the billboards and the signs on the back of the taxi cabs, and I relish the opportunity to fight on a big stage. Itís not something that I shy away from. In this fight, itís mainly about pride. Weíre both want to be able to say that we won this fight.
DM: The UFC recently started showing ďThe Best of PRIDE Fighting Championships.Ē What do you think about the PRIDE fights being shown to a whole new generation of fans?
MC: I think itís great and Iím very happy that more fans are going to get a chance to see the fights. It kind of hurt me being over there in Japan fighting, even though it probably was the greatest organization in the world, because a lot of people thought that I had retired for seven years. I was over there fighting the toughest guys in the world and a lot of people thought I was retired. I think itís great that theyíre going to be able to show the best of PRIDE on Friday nights. Thatís really the UFC trying to make a little money back from when they bought the company. I think fans are going to be surprised by some of the great fights they see.
DM: What does the future hold for you after this fight, win or lose?
MC: Well whether I win or lose does determine a lot, but what I do know is that I will fight again. People donít seem to understand, but I do continue to get better. I just hired a new strength and conditioning coach Josh Burns, and heís really taken the guesswork out of my training. Heís mapped out a nice plan and I see myself getting better.