Not too long ago, Mark Coleman headlined UFC 109 facing Randy Couture. Several days later, he’s apparently no longer good enough to remain in the UFC at all. On Wednesday, following a lopsided loss to Couture the UFC released Coleman from his contract and cut the veteran heavyweight. Coleman is now free to sign with any other promotion, but at 46 years of age his most likely-and most advisable-course of action is retirement. Fighters seldom do the ‘most advisable’ thing, however, and his actual plans are unknown at the moment.
Coleman became the first UFC fighter to be cut immediately after headlining a PPV event. Others have left due to drug test failures or for other opportunities, but none have ever been cut from their contract. Sources close to the UFC suggest that it was a decision no one wanted to make, but that all felt was unavoidable due to Coleman’s age and deteriorating skills. On the other hand, its interesting that the UFC sees fit to keep any number of other aging fighters with deteriorating skills on the payroll but not a Hall of Famer in Coleman.
While the fact that Coleman is a shell of the fighter he was at his prime, the UFC’s suggestion that they have his best interest at heart is somewhat duplicitous. He was kept around and booked into last Saturday’s fight-a fight that no one particularly had any interest in seeing in the first place-simply because he was a fighter that Randy Couture could beat. Were the UFC interested in the well being of their aging fighters there’s several others on the roster that should also be cut for the same justification as Coleman. Couture, Tito Ortiz and Chuck Liddell are all well past their prime but they’re still under contract and will all likely fight again.
Coleman’s age has never been a secret and his diminished skill level was evident to anyone who has watched his recent fights. If the UFC was really interested in his physical well being, the main event against Couture should have never taken place. The fight itself wasn’t exactly one that UFC fans had been clamoring for and one that met with derision from the MMA media from the time it was announced. The UFC has tried to hide behind a litany of excuses as their PPV buyrates have eroded including the economy and a spate of injuries but at the root of the problem is the hubris of the promotion and the misguided notion that whatever sort of substandard product they serve up will still be bought.
While retirement would be in Coleman’s best interest, he may attempt to fight in a smaller US promotion or in Japan where he’s well known from his time in PRIDE. He’s already a member of the UFC Hall of Fame with a 26-10 career record and has fought the best in the world including Fedor Emelianenko, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Mirko Cro Cop. He has a family and kids so his best future would be out of the ring but few fighters have been able to make a clean break from the sport.