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His nickname elicits a response from virtually anyone familiar with the sport of mixed martial arts and its history: “The Hammer.”
Mark Coleman closed out his impactful career with a 16-10 record, having made certain those 26 outings across three promotions would blaze a trail for those who followed in his footsteps. He forever altered MMA by introducing and refining ground-and-pound, a cornerstone technique now on display at almost every event across the globe. Coleman was inducted into the Ultimate Fighting Championship Hall of Fame in 2008 and returned to the Octagon the following year, losing his rematch with Mauricio Rua. After a decision win over “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 1 finalist Stephan Bonnar, the “Godfather of Ground-and-Pound” made his final appearance at UFC 109 in February 2010, when he submitted to a rear-naked choke from former two-division champion Randy Couture.
As Coleman’s accomplishments continue their inevitable march deeper into the past, here are five things you might not know about him:
1. He grew up in presidential shadows.
Coleman was born on Dec. 20, 1964 in Fremont, Ohio, a city of roughly 17,000 people located some 110 miles north of Columbus. It is perhaps best known for being home to the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center, a first-of-its-kind library built in 1916 to honor the life and legacy of the 19th President of the United States. Hayes was a one-term Republican (1877-81) who died in Fremont at the age of 70 on Jan. 17, 1893.
2. He wrestled his way to the top.
“The Hammer” was a two-time state wrestling champion at St. Joseph High School and earned a scholarship to Miami University. There, he earned All-American honors in 1986 and transferred to Ohio State University in 1987, sitting out a year as a redshirt before suiting up for the Buckeyes. Coleman went 50-2 as a senior and won an NCAA championship at 190 pounds in 1988. He later became the fourth Ohio State wrestler to qualify for the Olympics, placing seventh at the 1992 Summer Games in Barcelona, Spain.
3. A late start curbed his MMA success.
Coleman did not make his mixed martial arts debut until the age of 31. He started his career with a perfect 6-0 record, winning the UFC 10 and UFC 11 tournaments in 1996. Some four years later, Coleman shocked the MMA world by winning another high-profile tournament: the 2000 Pride Fighting Championships Open Weight Grand Prix.
4. He was the first of his kind.
The Hammer House founder became the first undisputed Ultimate Fighting Championship heavyweight titleholder in history when he submitted Dan Severn with a scarf hold in the first round of their UFC 12 main event on Feb. 7, 1997. Coleman held the championship for just 170 days, as he surrendered it to Maurice Smith in a unanimous decision at UFC 14.
5. He had staying power.
Coleman fought in three different decades as a professional mixed martial artist. He went 7-4 in the 1990s, 9-5 in the 2000s and 0-1 in the 2010s.