For any mixed martial artist or a fan of the sport alike, the name of Mark Coleman sparks a pinnacle of astonishment and appreciation.
A Hall of Famer in the UFC, the American wrestler became the first heavyweight champion at the nascent MMA promotion that would later go on to become a top drawer in global sport and make him a legend.
But little did people know, Coleman’s precursor glory was not aimed inside the Octagon, but at the biggest sporting event in the world- the Olympics.
Betway Insider recently got into touch with ‘The Hammer’ and the 56-year-old let out one big revelation about his pre-UFC wrestling days- when his ambition was to clinch a medal at the Olympics- starting with his debut at the 1992 Games.
But unfortunately, the 1988 NCAA Division 1 champion and 1991 World Championship silver medallist did not anticipate that he would get ‘choked’ at the 25th edition of the grand quadrennial event in Barcelona that year, resulting in a seventh-place finish.
Although he wanted to be the ‘best athlete in the world’, Coleman said he lost interest in the sport after losing to two of his opponents that he had already conquered, and in came the detrimental habits that further damaged his focus- a life filled with alcohol and substance abuse.
However, little did Coleman know that the pivotal moment in his career was about to arrive in 1993, which would refuel his long lost hunger for becoming the ‘best in the world’.
From a failed Olympic Trial to a UFC Championship- Coleman’s journey from amateur wrestling to professional MMA
The same year, UFC 1 had taken place and made a huge impact on Coleman who had just casually tuned in to check out the nascent MMA promotion and its first ever numbered event.
And what the wrestler saw was utterly astonishing for him.
“I was hooked, the second the first fight started,” said Coleman, “I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I thought it had to be fake. I just couldn’t believe it.”
On the heels of the astonishment, Coleman regained his ambition for glory and made the cage his future destiny to glory, “I hoped it was real, though, because if it was, I knew immediately that this is what I’m going to do. And I’m going to be the champion, I just knew.”
However, Coleman was yet to let go of his Olympics dream and aimed to qualify for the 1996 Atlanta Games. Unfortunately, the years of lacking focus caused him to lose the semifinals in the Trials.
But his glory was lying in his newfound interest in MMA- and in the same year when he couldn’t qualify for the Atlanta Olympic Games, Coleman made his debut in the Octagon after a manager gave him a slot at UFC 10.
“He (the manager) could put anybody he wanted in, and he was looking at me, Mark Kerr and Tom Erikson,” the veteran went on, “I told him that I would beat Mark Kerr and Tom Erikson’s ass, and I’ll beat Don Frye’s ass, too. I will win UFC 10. I’m the man for the job.”
“Whatever I said to the guy, it worked. I didn’t even read the contract, I just signed it. Two days later, I flew out to Alabama and 35 days later I was walking into that cage.”
Coleman walked into the cage as a novice, but walked out as the UFC 10 champion, beating Don Frye in the Final.
The latest prodigy in the UFC- it took Coleman only a year to clinch the inaugural heavyweight title at UFC 12 in February 1997.