Last weekend Mark Coleman was good enough to main event UFC 109, taking on fellow veteran Randy Couture in the headline bout. Today? Deemed unworthy of a UFC contract. Coleman, a former champion and Hall of Famer was unceremoniously cut from the roster.
It's a startling turn of events for a fighter heading home to finally celebrate Christmas with his daughters, another holiday missed preparing for a fight in the UFC Octagon. Coleman is a guy who just missed the sport's big money era. He never made the million dollar pay days Couture and others have enjoyed since the UFC rose to prominence in the last few years. When I talked to him this week he was still holding out hope, fantasizing about a win over Couture and a chance to hit that big score in a title fight with Lyoto Machida.
Instead, he's a 45 year old man without a job. In tough economic times. With nothing on his resume except "cage fighter." UFC officials think it is for the best. No one, a UFC insider told me, wanted to let Coleman go. But after Saturday's shellacking at the hands of Couture, there was a feeling that stepping back in the cage was not in Coleman's best interest. "It's never easy for an athlete to hear it's over," a source close to the situation said. UFC officials felt, in good conscience, they couldn't let Coleman fight again. "We were looking at a potential death in the Octagon."
Coleman's situation is unique. A main event fighter has never been cut from the UFC immediately following his headlining bout. Top guys like Dan Henderson have left for other opportunities. Josh Barnett was pushed out of the UFC in the wake of a drug scandal. But simply cut? Unprecedented. Perhaps, however, it was for the best. Coleman looked sad in the cage, scared and alone. He was helpless at the hands of Couture and fans at home saw a broken man talking with Joe Rogan after the fight. He seemed beaten down - it was hard seeing him that way after having just watched his incredible performance back at UFC 10. Like Willie Mays stumbling around the Mets outfield or Brett Favre in Minnesota purple (Okay, that one turned out alright) our last image of Mark Coleman will be a battered shell of a man, desperately holding out hope for a final pay day.
He was MMA's first. There will be others.
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