Mark Coleman became the first ever UFC heavyweight champion in 1997 by submitting fellow MMA legend/pioneer Dan Severn in the first round of that inaugural title fight.
It’s been almost fifteen years since Coleman wrapped that belt around his waist and the former Olympian has covered more ground than most fighters can ever hope to: He won the Pride FC 2000 Openweight Grand Prix, fought against some of the best competitors in the world on the sport’s biggest stages and was recently inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame. He’s seen the highs, the lows and everything in between and now, coming off of a loss at 46 years old, “The Hammer” is being forced to seriously contemplate whether or not he’ll ever step back into the ring or cage.
“People will ask, ‘When are you fighting again?'” Coleman recently told MMAFighting.com. “I’m not sure if I’m done or not yet, but I do feel the repercussions of 30 years of wrestling and fighting.”
While he hasn’t ruled out a return to action — he admits interest in a rematch with Severn — Coleman is quietly searching for a lucrative niche in the sport he loves and has helped build.
“I have no choice,” he said of moving on from his fighting career. “I’m 46 and the body’s breaking down. Fighting was a dream, and I lived the dream. Looking back on it, all these guys out there, these young guys, you’re going to look back and realize you were living a dream. Is it tough? Heck yeah, it’s a tough way to make a living. But it was great.”
Coleman, who has not appeared in action since losing to fellow quadragenarian Randy Couture at UFC 109 in February of 2010, passed on through MMAFighting words of wisdom for the next generation of MMA fighters looking for glory inside the cage.
“You’ve got to realize that you’re living the dream and the clock is ticking,” said Coleman. “It will tick fast, too. The next thing you know, it’s over.”