Exclusive: Single father Rashad Coulter on fighting’s struggles, rewards

Saturday, June 09, 2018

Heavyweight Rashad Coulter (8-3) has had an eventful past couple of years. He’s impressed with knockout wins in elite promotions like Bellator and LFA, earning a spot in the UFC, while he’s also dealt with subsequent losses in the cage, serious injuries, and losing his all-important day job.

The single father of two is in Chicago this week to fight Chris De La Rocha (4-2) on the UFC 225 FOX Sports 1 undercard tonight and seems genuinely excited and happy to be hours away from battle once more. After all, the fight itself contains intrinsic reward for a warrior like him, especially after so many unseen struggles.

Talking with Coulter for a few minutes ahead of his next fight, we ask him to reflect on what he believes might be the most misunderstood or unknown part of a fighter’s life.

“Finances are our biggest struggles as fighters,” he reveals.

“You’ve got to pay for coaches, your gas, your equipment. For us, it’s a mental stress because we’ve got so much we’ve got to do and then we have to perform to the highest level of our abilities. People just don’t understand. We get out there and we put ourselves on the line and the stuff we go through leading up to the fight, then to hear people boo after everything you’ve gone through…People don’t know how hard it is and the stress and how much of a toll it takes on us just to get ready for it.”

Fans who pay big money to watch mega-cards like UFC 225 on television or in person may be surprised to know that their heroes – wardrobed with expensive, exclusively licensed apparel in an advertisement-laden Octagon for a promotion owned by an entertainment giant – are often far behind their other big-time sports peers in terms of pay and benefits.

“Some UFC fighters have to have part-time jobs or full-time jobs,” he goes on.

“We’re not making what people think we’re making but that’s just for the love of the sport. This is what we love to do and what we signed up for once we signed the contract and we fight because it’s our passion to fight but we wish we were making millions of dollars. But it’s not like that for everybody, especially if you’re not a huge name.”

Putting your life on the line in training and in fights in an industry without salaries, year-round healthcare, pensions, a union, or any real job security must be extra stressful for fighters who also provide for young ones, as Coulter does for his 12 and 13-year-old sons. Though children are a huge responsibility, Coulter says he gets far more inspiration from parenthood than stress.

“I’ve had custody of my kids for 11 years now. They go with me everywhere I go. It’s very important that you lead by example. They see what hard work, dedication, and never giving up no matter what’s thrown at you in life. It’s hard, but it’s also a teaching experience to be able to teach your kids what it’s like to face adversity in life and keep pushing,” he says.

“They love watching me fight. That’s one thing they always talk about – ‘my dad’s a fighter.’ If you lose, of course it takes a toll on them but other than that they are so supportive of what I do.”

Joy and stress go hand-in-hand with being a parent, to say nothing of being a single parent as Coulter is. But the juice is always worth the squeeze, to him.

“It is most definitely a combination of both. It’s more motivation than it is stressful, though,” he asserts.

“The stressful part is in between fights, especially if you don’t have sponsors. That’s the hardest part – making ends meet in between fights. You have to be very smart with your money. Once that money starts getting low then you have to start thinking, ‘what am I going to do?’ then you have to find other means of making money. The motivation is that, since you know how hard it is in between fights, you’re motivated to go out there and bust your ass and get that win bonus or get that knockout of the night bonus that way you can have some money to sit on. So, for me, it’s more motivation. When I’m training, that’s what’s going through my head.”

It also apparently goes through the fighter’s head in competition itself, as evidenced by his thrilling UFC debut in May, 2017 against Chase Sherman. Coulter lost the fight, but went out on his shield and earned a little more cash in the form of a fight of the night discretionary bonus from the UFC.

“When I fought Chase Sherman, I went out there and tore my quad muscle two minutes into the third round and I fought the rest of the fight like that. But, I fought so hard I got that fight of the night bonus. I’m looking forward to getting that again, tonight,” he says, before chuckling and correcting himself.

“Well, not ‘fight of the night’ – I’m looking for performance of the night and a knockout win.”

About the author:
Elias Cepeda is a host of Sports Illustrated’s Extra Rounds Podcast, a staff writer at FloCombat, and has a regular column for The UG Blog.

elias cepeda Follow Rashad Coulter on Instagram