(Can assistant swagger-coach Phil Baroni be far behind? / Photo via Getty)
Former UFC heavyweight champion and Hall of Famer Mark Coleman recently got a call from the returning B.J. Penn asking “The Hammer” to join Penn’s coaching staff on The Ultimate Fighter 19. “It’s hard to put it into words. The word ‘honored’, everybody uses it too much, but I really am just honored that this guy would want to use me as his coach,” Coleman told Fox Sport’s Damon Martin.
“Me and BJ Penn have been friends since the beginning of this thing, and I consider him a great friend…I’m honored that he respects me enough to handle this position. I don’t take it lightly. It’s going to be a serious job to me out there. I don’t have a whole lot of idols, but BJ Penn is one of them. I love the guy. For him to ask me to do this, I can’t put it into words. Hopefully, I can do a good job with him and as long as he’s happy with me, I’m good.”
TUF 19 will debut on Fox Sports 1 early in 2014. BJ Penn and Frankie Edgar will coach opposite one another on the show and then fight one another for the third time. Coleman will leave for Las Vegas in a few weeks to help Penn prepare the young fighters for the opportunity of their lives.
“I’m hoping to do my best to turn one of these guys into a champion,” the 48-year-old said. “The closest thing to actually being in the ring and fighting is getting to know a fighter, and training him and actually watching him in there…I’ve always wanted to be able to give back somehow, and one of the few ways I can give back in general is to help kids like this achieve their goals.”
Coleman has not fought since his loss to Randy Couture at UFC 109 in February 2010, and had a hip replacement surgery earlier this year. “The Godfather of Ground and Pound” seems to be looking forward to getting back on the mat with the young guns on TUF 19.
“Here we go,” he said. “I’m going to have to put my hip to the test.”
Penn’s choice of Coleman as his wrestling coach reflects his appreciation and respect for old-school fighters like himself — but should he have picked a younger, more modern wrestling coach to help guide his team to victory? Or at least one with a fully-functioning hip?