Good day, folks. I’m back with a retrospective on one of the pioneers of our beloved sport, a man that I believe has been unfairly marginalized and under-appreciated by the hustle-and-bustle of today’s crowded MMA landscape. That man is, of course, Mark Coleman. His list of accomplishments speaks for itself, or would if it could actually speak. Since it can’t, I’ll go ahead and list them anyway:
- NCAA Division I Champion (190 lbs)
- UFC 10 Tournament Champion
- UFC 11 Tournament Champion
- First UFC Heavyweight Champion
- Pride FC 2000 Grand Prix Champion
- UFC Hall of Fame Inductee
While this list is extremely impressive, it’s not the reason I consider Mark Coleman the greatest mixed martial artist of all time. I know that some may quibble about my choice of words, but I couldn't care less about your worthless semantics. All of you poindexters with your "point of order!" bullshit and ensuing inhaler puffs can take a hike. "Greatest" to me encompasses much more than just a mere record of wins or losses. It extends beyond trinkets like belts and giant trophies. "Greatness" is, at its essence, a timelessness that everyone can recognize regardless of who we are and where we come from.
Mark Coleman is the Greatest Mixed Martial Artist Ever because he, more than anyone else, exemplifies just how batshit crazy MMA is. And that deserves some serious recognition.
Proof after the jump!
Example #1: Mark Coleman combines wrestling with tradeable game cards and the result is fucking AMAZING.
I’ll be the first to admit, NCAA wrestling is just not my thing. I don’t follow it enough to articulate why exactly I don’t like it, but suffice to say it’s just too boring and video games still exist so I haven't revisited the issue. Want to know what’s even less interesting to me? Games involving tradeable cards. Fuck those.
Despite all of these daunting hurdles to capture my attention and interest, Mark Coleman’s existence created an indelible piece of awesomeness and the world is better for it. There are just so many layers to experience in this little piece of miracle. Firstly, the card is part of something called Grapple Game. Apparently, the geniuses behind Grapple Game thought that the perfect way for anyone to live or relive their wrestling fantasies was in trading card form. Following the natural success of Grapple Game, these wunderkinds went on to design Bicycle Game, Hang Gliding Game, and Walking Outside Game. They’d figured out that the only people buying their horrible crap were shut-ins and quadriplegics so they focused on that demographic exclusively. Despite all that, they did capture this little nugget of incredibleness in tradeable card form for the benefit of humanity everywhere:
Check out what Mark Coleman is doing to that poor bastard! I can only assume that the dude who took this shot got the same partial erection I do every time I see this thing (if by shot you're wondering if I mean the photographer or the soon-to-be-corpse in the red singlet, the answer is YES). If this kind of move happened more often in wrestling, I’d probably become a diehard fan or at least lie and say I was. But I suspect that after this the powers that be in the NCAA took appropriate action to ensure that no one else would ever be lawn-darted into the Earth’s core and NCAA wrestling resumed being unbearably boring. Mark Coleman was so awesome that he ruined it for everybody else but at least he got a Grapple Game card out of it. In an Behind the Music-esque turn, I found out that the recipient of Mr. Coleman’s spine atomizer went on to become the 1996 Grapple Game champion. This is because he first went on to be permanently paralyzed from the hairline down. His favorite card? Bruce Baumgartner. 7 Bonus Points ain’t nothing to fuck with.
Example #2: Mark Coleman + Japan = Bright, Shiny Magic!
Some people are elevated to true greatness because of a confluence of events around them. I don’t know what confluence means but when Mark Coleman arrived in Japan in 1999, shit started confluencing like a motherfucker. After falling prey to a suspiciously suspicious Takada heel hook at Pride 5, Coleman promptly cashed his bribe check and began preparing for what was, at the time, the greatest MMA tournament in the history of the sport. The Pride 2000 Grand Prix has lost a lot of its luster over the years but still holds a place in history for what occurred there. I’m speaking, of course, about the greatest celebratory fail of all time. After defeating Igor Vovchanchyn in the finals (his third fight of the night), Mark was filled with the inspiration to try this:
Even 11 years after the fact, it’s hard to analyze what exactly was going through the Hammer’s head in this moment. Maybe it was because he’d spent the bulk of his career fighting in the Octagon and the Pride ring ropes befuddled him. Maybe some nefarious hooligan spiked his steroids with angel dust or gorilla semen and he just wigged out momentarily. Most likely, and most depressing, he just simply had a White Man Moment. Whatever the reason, it’s a pitch perfect ending to what was clearly the greatest achievement of his professional career up to that point. My favorite part is trying to imagine what Igor’s thinking as he watches this unfold:
"Damn. I lost. Well, at least I can hang my fur-lined hat on the fact that I lost to the greates- Oh God damn. Did he seriously just do that? Did he seriously fucking do that? Now I have to stand next to him while they dispense the novelty trophies and swallow the fact that this jerkoff just tried to use the ropes as a trampoline and I’M the runner up. Fuck."
Examples # 3 & 4: More Mark Coleman in Japan? Domo arigato, hombre!
Whatever doors Mark Coleman thought would open as the Grand Prix champion, I have trouble believing that he had any clue what the country of Japan had in mind for their new-found gaijin plaything. Japanese culture has been exhaustively documented for decades, so I’ll just summarize: the Japanese are fucking crazy. Soiled-panty vending machines? Check. Dog and cat petting zoos for salary men and women who don’t have the luxury of space to own animals? Yep, they got those too. Robotic children for grandparents who don’t expect to ever see the real kind. Yeah, I guess (this is getting a little depressing). But don’t worry, they also have this:
Hooray! Giant robot! Now I’m happy again. And the Japanese were equally happy to foist their madness on the corn-infused shoulders of Mr. Marku Coruman. First up is this little number:
Ah, Banana King. Despite the fact that I see monarchies as a whole as an outdated and unnecessary relic, I have to say that there is a part of me that instinctually gravitates to the majestic charisma of seeing the Banana King astride his mighty Battle Banana. His cool demeanor calms me, his upturned thumb reassures me that everything will be alright. His smile, regal yet human, tells me that he’ll have no problem kneeing the fuck out of Allen Goes’ skull should the need arise. I’ll follow you anywhere, Banana King! Just not to strawberries. I’m not a fan of that particular blend.
You might think that given the heady success of being the Grand Prix champion (and fruit nobility), Mark Coleman would refuse to share the limelight with any other fighter. Well, you are completely fucking wrong. So apologize, right now. Thank you. I’m sorry I raised my voice. Back to the matter at hand, look at this insanity:
Schick Razor Commercial w/Silva and Coleman (via hayes9000)
While the print ad is soul-exploding enough, the actual TV commercial blows this whole mother straight to 11. It’s like Crouching Tiger Hidden Cooling Foam. It’s like House of Flying 15 Razors for optimal follicle shear. By putting Mark Coleman and Wanderlei Silva on the same soundstage, the Japanese came within an inch of matching the standard for testosterone-overload first set by Tango & Cash and then later raised by Jamie Lee Curtis and her special yogurt.
Example # 5: Mark Coleman. Trainer? Coach? Huh?
Mark Coleman was a beast of a competitor, but he was also a passionate corner man. By passion, I don’t mean studying the evolution of the sport or dissecting his opponents. I mean screaming really basic, none-too-useful one-liners at the top of his elephant lungs. He did this from the corner, so he at least satisfied the requirement to be a corner man in that sense. Here’s a Mad Lib that demonstrates the range of Coleman’s strategic offerings:
DO SOMETHIN (insert name)!
There you go! It’s pretty impressive that even today, his tactics and insight are immediately available for use in any situation:
Fighting a BJJ black belt who likes to pull guard? DO SOMETHIN (insert name)!
Caught in half guard and eating elbows? DO SOMETHIN (insert name)!
Fight just started and you’re approaching your opponent? DO SOMETHIN (insert name)!
And it doesn’t matter what your background or skillset is. Mark Coleman has one, giant, Hammer-shaped vocal cookie cutter that’ll stamp the same outline over every one of your matches. At the very least, you won’t have to worry about some surprising advice coming out of left field. You will, however, still have to worry about everything else he is saying. But whatever.
On top of all that strategery, Mark was also a front runner in developing cutting-edge training facilities. Check out this quote from Phil Baroni detailing the impact training under the Hammer House banner had on his MMA development:
"There’s no gym Hammerhouse. There’s no gym in Ohio. There’s no–you know Coleman’s out here in Vegas training me. He’s staying at the Palace Station. There’s no team. I never went to train with Team Hammerhouse. It’s just bullshit. Coleman’s just a good marketer. He’s telling me he wants to open up a Hammerhouse gym in Ohio. He’d like to do that some day. It was just a bunch of guys fighting under a flag you know what I mean? They didn’t train together. I never really trained with Coleman. He’s way too big. He would corner me and we’d have conversations on the phone. It’s not a gym. It was something in Japan that they marketed. They just made the team more than what it is. There is no Hammerhouse.Hammerhouse is a punching bag on Coleman’s porch. I’ve seen pictures of it. It’s just an old punching bag. I’ve never even been to Coleman’s house."
Do you get it? Hammer House wasn't a "team" or a "gym", it was a state of mind! Mark Coleman went meta before meta even existed! Which, when you thing about it, is so meta. Or Raven. Or something. Regardless, Mark Coleman put a punching bag on his front porch. What the hell have you done with your life?
Example # 6: Mark Coleman’s Martial Arts? They done been mixed, son.
Prior to his headlining fight against Randy Couture at UFC 109: Matlock & Metamusil , Mark Coleman was the subject of some fairly strong criticism that he hadn’t taken appropriate steps to update his training to the current UFC standard. Mark Coleman heard these complaints and promptly headbutted them, 1996-style. Afterwards, Mark Coleman completely re-invented himself ala What Not to Wear. Where there had been a frumpy, drab wrestler with limited ground & pound and non-existent submission anything, there was now a frumpy, drab wrestler with limited ground & pound and non-existent submission anything in a way-too-tight skirt of awkward striking. Here was the result:
If there’s one moral to this story, it’s that What Not to Wear is fucking awful. And Mark Coleman shouldn’t even be allowed to spell "muy thai". Luckily, Mark was successful on that end. The closest he got was "M-Y-T-A-C-O" followed by a headbutt and resolving the issue of taco ownership.
Example # 7: Fin
Some of you may think the whole point of this fanpost was to poke fun at a past-his-prime fighter who really can’t compete at the top of the sport any more and had more than his share of wince-worthy moments. And you’d be really mistaken. Because I really truly love the fact that Mark Coleman was able to do legitimately impressive things while simultaneously doing impressively stupid stuff. He wasn’t the detached, measured automaton we have now in GSP. Nor was he the superficial punchlines that we occasionally snicker at (Kimbo Slice, Andy Wang, etc.). He was something genuinely special during a time that MMA really endeared itself to me while it figured out how to be a sport. With that, I’ll leave you with my favorite Mark Coleman moment. Even more than Tito Ortiz this year, I really surprised myself by how much I loved watching Mark throw a wrench (or was it a Hammer?) in the UFC gears by improbably beating Stephan Bonnar at UFC 100 in his last major win. The sheer joy on his face was awesome then and hasn’t diminished one bit. So, as a farewell and a sincere thank you to Mark Coleman and everything he gave to MMA and its fans, I leave you with this:
Good night everybody. Now DO SOMETHIN (insert name)!