(Photo courtesy of MMA Weekly.)
It came as no surprise to MMA fans when Mark Coleman was inducted into the UFC’s Hall of Fame last March. After all, the former Olympic wrestler became the UFC’s first-ever heavyweight champion when he defeated Dan Severn at UFC 12 in February 1997, and his legendary career has also seen him win PRIDE’s 2000 Grand Prix and score victories over the likes of Don Frye (twice), Ricardo Morais, and Mauricio Rua. What was surprising was that at 43 years of age, Coleman announced he was returning to the Octagon, and would take on the hulking Brock Lesnar in his first fight back.
Though that match was scrapped when Coleman suffered a knee injury, Coleman is now fully recovered and will begin the next chapter of his career at UFC 93 on January 17th — just over ten years after his last UFC appearance. He’ll also be competing as a light-heavyweight for the first time, in a rematch against Mauricio Rua. (Infamously, their first fight ended with a broken arm and a foot on Wanderlei Silva’s neck.) We caught up with The Hammer to talk about the mental challenges of MMA, his gameplan for the fight, and what may be in store for the future…
CAGEPOTATO: Hey Mark, thanks so much for taking the time to speak with me. What have you been up to this week?
MARK COLEMAN: Just trying to keep myself together mentally and emotionally. It’s getting close to the fight, and at least half this sport is mental so I’m trying to stay strong. Physically, I feel fine; training went well, and I just gotta get through a few more practices and I’ll be ready to go.
Could you tell us more about those mental and emotional challenges that come up before a fight?
Just in general, it’s a tough sport. It’s the most demanding sport in the world, so you gotta keep the warm-up doubt out, you gotta stay mentally strong, you gotta believe in yourself, stay confident, because if you don’t believe in yourself, you don’t stand a chance. But I believe I can do this. I put in a lot of hard work, and I plan on winning the fight.
Would you say your health is 100%, or is your knee injury from last year still somewhat of an issue?
No, the MCL healed up 100%, it’s not a problem.
This is the first time you’ll have to cut weight for an MMA match. How much of a challenge will that be for you, and how are you making it happen?
Surprisingly, it’s not going to be as difficult as I thought. Right now I’m just a little under 220 pounds. I had a very strict diet combined with hard training, and the weight came off pretty good. I don’t anticipate there being a problem making weight. I don’t think I lost too much strength, and I’m very pleased with that as well.
You’ve said that you’ll have a strength advantage on Shogun. Does that mean your plan will be to outwrestle him?