At UFC 109 on February 6th, Mark “the Hammer” Coleman (16-9) will square off against fellow legend and UFC Hall of Famer Randy “the Natural” Couture (17-10) in a fight that could put the winner in line for a title shot later this year. Coleman has been successful in his MMA career by relying on his wrestling pedigree and has often lacked the disciplined and focused training regimen that his contemporaries have embraced. In advance of his fight with Couture, Colemen has sought out Couture’s former coach Shawn Tompkins to help him prepare for what Coleman is describing as the biggest fight of his life.
In an interview with Sherdog.com, Coleman described his current state of mind, “I’m trying to keep my composure. Keep calm. And stay confident and I’m doing a good job of it so far. I’m not feeling any pressure. Of course there’s some pressure but I’m keeping it under control and I think that’s the key. A lot of guys get too worked up and it’ll zap you energy. You’ll lose the fight before it even happens. I’m just gonna stay positive. Stay confident. And I believe I can do this. I’m definitely excited. I’m ready to go. Get this over with. Get started.”
In a sport often headlined by grudges and trash talk, Coleman hasn’t been shy about heaping respect and praise on his opponent. “Randy compares to anybody. His record speaks for itself. He’s a legend. He’s one of the best all-time in my opinion. A five time champion, something like that. I mean just to be able to rise up after falling down, that’s what a true champion is. Not a lot of guys can do that after being knocked down and knocked out. But that’s what a champion does. He gets back up and finds a way to come back and win. In my opinion, he’s one of the best ever.”
Coleman has credited his new coach Shawn Tompkins for helping him to get in great shape and increasing his fighting skills. When asked if he believes Tompkins can provide him an advantage by providing insight into Couture’s fighting style, Coleman responded, “He’s just a great trainer. I don’t really feel it’s that big an advantage. Maybe somewhat. He’s shown me a bit of his tendencies. I like Shawn as a trainer in general. We get along well. I just like working with him. I don’t think it’s that important. I’ve seen Randy fight plenty of times you know. He’s pointed out a few of his tendencies but I anticipate Randy…he’s a smart, smart fighter and I anticipate him coming out with a host of different tricks up his sleeve.”
Coleman described the help Tompkins and his conditioning coach have provided saying, “Just the basics. Just picking up on the basics. I’d been out there fighting on instincts for ten years. It’s crazy but I did it. It’s just the simple, small little things. It’s just punching straighter. Crisper punches. You know, better combinations, footwork. As far as my strength and conditioning goes, I got a coach Josh Burns, that came in and uh, I was never afraid to work hard but my workouts didn’t have any meaning behind them. I was just guessing okay, that was hard enough, that was a good go but now this guy he’s brought some science behind it.”
He later continued, “Lack of knowledge creates fear out there. And fear creates fatigue. That’s been a lot of the reason I’ve gotten tired in the past. So I think being more comfortable out there and being able to relax and working harder and training smarter…I think the combination of the two I think I should be much better off this time around.
When asked if Coleman could revert to his old fighting style, Coleman admitted, “The instincts to be a wrestler are strong. It may happen again…I get out there and see his legs sitting right there in front of me, I can’t guarantee that I’m not just gonna go for it. If he stuffs it and stops it, then I’m gonna be forced to using the standup and other techniques. But if it happens and I take him down then that’s where I want to be anyways. But I anticipate not being able to take him down because he’s such a good wrestler. And if I can’t take him down then I think you’ll see…I’ve never shown my hands so nobody really knows what I got in them.”