Mark Coleman – “The Hammer is Back”
By Dave Carpinello
In a PunchDrunkGamer exclusive, Dave Carpinello had a chance to speak with the “Hammer” Mark Coleman about his recent induction into the UFC Hall of Fame, facing Brock Lesnar in August, training and the opportunity to come back and fight in front of the American fans that helped make him the UFC Heavyweight Champion.
PDG: There isn’t really any where else to start this interview, besides asking you how it felt to be inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame on Saturday night. Walking to the cage, getting that giant plaque, stating you were now a member of the UFC Hall of Fame. How did that feel?
Mark: It was so much more than walking to the cage on Saturday night. It was about hearing the rumors for months on end and then not knowing if it was going to happen for certain, then finally getting the call. Two weeks before the event I finally got a call from Dana confirming what I was hoping. At that time I became overwhelmed and emotional that the rumors had come true. You can listen to rumors and speculation all the time but none of that means anything, so when I got the call it was unbelievable. I was so grateful and thankful to so many people and especially Dana [White], because nothing happens in the UFC without his approval. Overall though, I have to say thanks to the fans because if the fans didn’t want it, then the UFC would never have considered it. It was a combination of a lot of good things happening at the same time that resulted in a lot of good emotions on my behalf. The two weeks leading up to the event were very nerve-racking as I was more concerned about my speech than stepping into the ring or cage and fighting anyone before.
PDG: How much more did it mean to you that the induction took place in Columbus, Ohio?
Mark: Timing is everything and that just added to an unbelievable night. Life is a roller coaster for everybody and I will be the first to admit that the last year and a half of my life has not been on the rising part of that amusement park ride. When the UFC purchased PRIDE last year, I wasn’t really sure what the future entailed. I guess that I kind of assumed that the UFC was going to use me to fight for them. It wasn’t as easy as I thought, as I had to do a lot of convincing to show the UFC that I could still fight. The UFC event being in Columbus was great timing and I did not find out about the fight with Brock Lesnar until Thursday night. Joe [Silva] had mentioned the Dana had a fight in mind for me and I already knew that it would be Brock. They told me they had an opponent that they were interested in matching up with me and I knew it was him. My whole goal was to get back in the cage and if that was the opponent… so be it. As far as Brock Lesnar is concerned, I don’t pick my fights. I let the organization and the fans decide who I should fight. I told the UFC that if they were going to give me five to six months of preparation that I would fight any opponent at heavyweight or 205 pounds. If they had wanted me to drop down in weight to get a fight, then I would have done that. Now that I know who my opponent is, I will maintain my weight and work hard on my cardio.
PDG: When they told you your assumption of Brock Lesnar was right; how long did you have to think about it before saying yes?
Mark: It did not take any time to think about it, my answer was yes. I am very excited for this fight and it makes a lot of sense for the UFC to match the two of us up. There will be alot of interest and attention drawn from many fans across the world. Of course, all of the mixed martial arts fans and I think all of the amateur wrestling competitors and fans will also be interested and then of course the professional wrestling fans. That fact intrigued me most about the matchup. It may seem like I have been sitting around for the last year and a half wasting time but I have had offers from all over the globe to fight again but I was waiting for the one opportunity that would inspire me to train and fight again at my full potential. I needed something that was going to make me commit 100% of myself back to the fight game. If it wasn’t the right situation, the right time and the right opportunity, there would be no reason to do it. I guess that is just another term for “I am not broke yet”. I am very excited that I will have the chance to get back inside that cage and finish my career in the UFC.
I can promise you this, there have been so many people in my life that have offered me support, training, help and overall motivation. This time I am going to take full advantage of all of that. I am so appreciative of the fans and the fighters that have always tried to work with me and since this fight was announced that have offered their help. The greatest thing about this fight is that I get five months of preparation unlike some of my pride fights where I took them on three to four weeks notice and was not properly prepared.
PDG: Are you talking about your fight with the Fedor Emelianenko?
Mark: I am not going to make excuses. I am not pleased with a lot of my performances over the last four years but that does not take anything away from those who I fought or how they fought or how they won. I am going to admit that for the most part it was my fault for a lack of training. That was a major factor in a lot of my fights and it is something that I regret.
PDG: What if Joe had offered you the fight with Brock in May?
Mark: I would have wanted to say “hell no”, but being the fighter and competitor that I am I would probably have said yes. That is one of the most intriguing factors of my new contract. I have five months to prepare for this fight so I will have no excuses. I realize the magnitude of this fight and I am not going to get any more chances like this.
PDG: Since your last fight over a year and a half ago; you have been doing some pro wrestling in Japan with Josh Barnett and Kevin Randleman. What has your MMA training consisted of?
Mark: Honestly, I took some time off after the Fedor fight. The motivation to fight had left me. When the UFC bought PRIDE, I was very disappointed that I was not one of the fighters they chose to feature. I was never upset with the UFC; I was just disappointed that I no longer had a fight contract in place. It was not only a surprise to me but also a wake-up call. I was still training and I was offered flights elsewhere but I was not very excited about any of the options. I got a little bit spoiled fighting in Japan and I just assumed that the UFC was going to pick up my contract. I was very disappointed and for a while, I will admit that I did not train like a champion. Don’t get me wrong, I was still training the whole time and I maintained a healthy diet and it actually worked out for the best because I had so many injuries that were nagging over the years that I was finally able to let them heal without jumping back in to the fight game. As of today I am completely healthy and I pray to God that I can go through this fight camp and be ready for Lesnar without suffering any major injuries. Minimal damage, I know that every fighter fights with injuries; I just need to keep them at a minimum.
PDG: Where are you going to be training for this fight?
Mark: I am going back to school but I do not know where yet. In the meantime, I will be training in Columbus, Ohio with Hammer House and also with the Ohio State wrestling team. With Wes Sims and George Bush and a bunch of guys that can get the job done. I definitely like it when I get to go up to Ohio State and train with those guys, there are some badass fighters up there. After the 2008 Olympics, some of those guys will be going pro and people had better watch out for them. If you want to see energy and animals then go watch these guys. I know that I am fighting a wrestler and I’m going to have to come up with a game plan but for right now, over the next month I will stay here in my hometown and train. I am going to put in some time with my kids; who have all of my love and then it is time to go to work and get ready for my fight. About four months before the fight, I am going to give those kids of mine big kisses goodbye and go into hard-core training with one of the many fight camps that has offered me their services since this fight has been announced.
PDG: Your fight against Brock Lesnar is by far one of the most intriguing match ups in a long time. You are an abrasive competitor with full-bore striking skills and a championship wrestling background. What do you do to prepare for basically a younger version of your self?
Mark: That is a very good question. I will be honest with you, I will have to get a game plan together and figure out what is the best way to train to beat this guy. At the same time, I am also going to take in my experience and the experience of all the other fighters that are offering to help me train. I am very well aware that some game plans don’t mean anything and they can change as soon as the bell rings. I have seen a lot of game plans thrown out the door very quickly. There are a million examples of that happening in MMA, whether I’ve been the one fighting, in a fighter’s corner or just watching the fight. Right now, I do not know what is the best game plan or the best strategy but come fight time I will impress the fans. I am so excited for this fight and for the first time in a long time I can dedicate myself to training. I will miss my family, my kids in particular big-time but they understand that is what made me a State Champion, a National Champion and then the UFC and PRIDE champion. I have dedicated my life to this sport and that is what it takes to be a champion.
The reaction and support that I have gotten from so many fans and fighters over the last couple of days has been amazing and I am so grateful. They genuinely seem like they want me to do very well in my come back and I will do everything I can to not disappoint them. I owe it to my kids, my fans and everybody that is reaching out there to support me to do well and so that makes a huge difference in my preparation. There is going to be some people out there that do not want me to succeed… the haters. That is fine, I appreciate all fans whether they like me or not but I want fans in general to know that I am a very personable fighter. If you see me on the street, anywhere, feel free to walk up and talk to me. I love MMA fans regardless of who their favorite fighter is. For the most part, I am shy in the public arena but nothing means more to a professional athlete than having fans acknowledge them and want to meet them. Dave, you have talked to me for over six hours on the phone before this interview and not recorded any of it or released any of it. You as a fan show me that I want all fans to talk to me.
PDG: Thanks! Nine years since your last UFC fight; what are the two biggest changes you have seen from the last time you fought in the UFC until now?
Mark: Number one, has to be the change in the overall fighter and their skill set. The quality of the fighter and the skills that they have developed and how they showcase those talents in the UFC and the other organizations has got to be number one. We are in a time when more fans are learning about the sport than ever before.
The second one has to be the overall magnitude of mixed martial arts and how the UFC has put that at the forefront. The quality and professionalism that has developed over the years, not to mention the promotional aspect of how MMA has eclipsed boxing and professional wrestling. I guess you would also have to include the fan base which has grown immensely and more and more fans are continually educated on the sport as a whole. The magnitude of the entire sport has changed so much in general, the UFC is at the top of the ladder but there are many other organizations out there that are fighting for second. I would also have to add the fighter salaries that are at an all time high.
PDG: Going from the cage in the UFC to the ring in PRIDE; what do you think of certain fighter’s adjustment to the cage and do you prefer a one or the other?
Mark: Personally I love the cage; I had trouble adjusting to fighting in the ring. I was never comfortable fighting in the ring. I think the whole ring vs. cage deal is way overblown. I am not going to degrade one fighter or the other because you have great fights in one of those situations. Heath [Herring] was hot and cold in PRIDE and had a nice victory Saturday night. I think more than anything that some UFC fans that didn’t watch the wars in PRIDE are the ones that come up with these conspiracy theories. I just don’t see it that way, a couple of prizefighters struggled like Mirko “Cro-Cop” and Mauricio “Shogun” but Dan Henderson fought two guys that were originally from PRIDE. I don’t think that the cage is a factor, it is more about your opponent then where you fight. Cro-Cop may have been affected more than anyone else but that is it. Shogun had other things going on besides his fight. If I remember right he got married like three weeks before the flight and that’s just crazy, you don’t get married three weeks before a fight against anyone. I would highly recommend that you do not do that. Any new fighter that wants to be a champion, don’t do that. It doesn’t matter one way or the other, Forrest Griffin was the problem that night. The cage, the ring, the whatever, did not matter. Forrest Griffin was the problem and he has paid his dues and he should get respect from all fans. Quite simply I am one of his fans and I hope that he takes the right road and accepts the responsibility that it takes to be a true champion.
PDG: So personally it doesn’t make a difference whether it’s in the cage or the ring?
Mark: I prefer the cage. If you look at it, I am neutral in the whole situation but PRIDE guys like [Rampage] Jackson and [Anderson] Silva obviously have done very well in the cage. You have your PRIDE fans and your UFC fans, so somebody is always going to try to make an argument on what’s best. My personal opinion is that it is blown out of context and it doesn’t matter where you’re fighting, what matters is who is the better fighter.
PDG: Let’s go out of your career for a minute and back to one of your former cohorts. What do you think about Kevin Randleman signing with World Victory Road?
Mark: I am very happy for him, that he is going to get a chance to show fans that he can still fight. I would love to see him fight in America but right now his biggest fan basis is in Japan and they love them. The Japanese fans are incredible and they made me feel very good and Kevin has always been a favorite of theirs. For Kevin, it is a perfect fit. After all the injuries and everything that he has been through it is great that he’s back fighting again. We are survivors and everybody has been trying to bury us but we are back. The both of us refuse to die and he is as happy for me as I am for him. He is going to be back in a big show in Japan making a lot of money and that is great for him. I really hope that God blesses us both with healthy returns. If he trains and he is ready to go, then he is a dangerous man to be in a cage or ring with.
PDG: Were you surprised after seeing the pictures of his staph infection; that he was able to recover like he has and be ready to fight again?
Mark: No, and maybe because I just don’t want to think otherwise but I have seen that man come back from injuries that normal people could not recover from. I have seen him come back from so many different problems over the years that nothing really surprises me as far as his ability to come back stronger than ever. Kevin has always told me that I need to be more positive in my life and my career and that has never really stuck until now. You have got to believe and you have to be positive because if you don’t believe, there is no chance for success and then you will never achieve success. I hope he maintains his health, goes to Japan, gets on a winning streak, make some good money and comes back to the US to fight.
PDG: Let’s get back to your career. What fighter from your past would you like to fight again?
Mark: Hypothetically, I would like to fight everybody that I lost too but that is not going to happen. There are some fighters and I would definitely like to fight again including Fedor, Cro-Cop, and Nogueira but one person stands out and that it is Maurice Smith. The loss to him is still really hard to fucking swallow. I was young in the game and thought I didn’t need any preparation to beat him.
PDG: You lost by decision right?
Mark: Yes, that is one fight that I do regret because I did not take it seriously and I did not prepare properly. That was probably one of the most humbling days of my life. I started believing what I was reading about being so good and confidence is a great thing, until it gets the best of you. I was overconfident for the fight and I did not give him any credit going into it. I did not give him any respect and I paid the price. To be honest though, that was a very humbling ass kicking that I have kept with me every day since.
PDG: It has been a long time since you have done an interview that was longer than five questions. One of those little interviews you did, you said you wanted to fight Randy Couture.
Mark: The guy caught me at the wrong place at the wrong time and I honestly said that yes I would fight him since he was the UFC Champion. Some people took that remark out of context and thought that I was talking down to or calling out Randy Couture. He is a great fighter and I would like nothing more than to go down and train with him in his gym in Las Vegas. But if that does not happen, I’m not going to lose any sleep over it as I have plenty of good fighters to train with. I consider Randy a friend and what fighter would not want to fight the champion at that time.
PDG: What do you think about training with Bas Rutten?
Mark: That would be a great addition to my training regimen. It is proven that training with him is beneficial and he is very knowledgeable in the sport. From what I have been told and seen, he can fix most fighters problems with the proper training session. Like I said earlier, there are a lot of people that can help me in my training and I’m not going to turn anyone down. What it boils down to is the mental and physical preparation by myself. It is all about myself doing the work that I need to do to get ready for this fight and the continuation of my career. I have five months of preparation and this may be my last chance, so I’m not going to fuck it up.
PDG: Is there anything else he would like to add?
Mark: There is no reason that I cannot beat this guy. I have fought seven or eight world champions, so I am definitely looking forward to this challenge and I owe thanks to a lot of people that have helped me get to where I am at in this stage of my career. Mainly, my family, my daughters and all of my fans. I owe it to all of them to give it my best effort in my upcoming fights. Beating Brock Lesnar is not my only goal and I am hoping that one year from now I will be fighting for the UFC championship in Columbus, Ohio. If you don’t dream big and set your goals high; you are just downright crazy.
Post your comments directly below! You can also discuss the latest MMA & Video Game News in the PunchDrunkGamer Forums and don’t forget to Follow PDG on Twitter @PunchDrunkGamer and Like the PDG Official Facebook Page!