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UFC pioneer Mark Coleman looks back on career after recent retirement

Mark Coleman, the first world-class wrestler still in his prime to compete in the UFC, made official a couple of weeks back that his fighting career was over due to the hip replacement surgery he had on March 4. It was more a confirmation of the obvious. Coleman, 48, hadn‘t fought in three years, since his lost to Randy Couture at UFC 109. He‘s been in a lot of pain for two years before that. He spent years hoping it would heal before a recent examination told him his hip was gone. He was dreading the operation before hand. Today, he‘s thrilled, and can‘t stop raving about the work of his surgeon, Dr. Joel Politi of Columbus, Ohio. I walked the same day, he said after an operation that lasted less than one hour. I got real lucky. I had one of the best doctors in the country, period. My scar is four inches. That‘s unheard of for a hip replacement. Nobody has a four-inch scar. My physical therapist, I showed her the scar. She said that was the smallest scar she‘d ever seen from a hip replacement. It made a big difference in recovery. I woke up from surgery and it was such a relief. I wasn‘t feeling so confident going into the surgery. I was a little nervous. Coleman noted he could lift his leg immediately, was walking with a walker four or five hours after surgery. He thinks he could have walked without the walker, but they wouldn‘t let him. He said his hip is far stronger than it has been in years. He‘s been told he can‘t do anything but controlled movements. That means no more competition wrestling or fighting. If not for this hip, I‘d have done the journeyman tour, and collected a few paychecks, he said. Guys don‘t like to quit, wrestlers or fighters. You don‘t tell MMA when you want to retire. It tells you when you‘re done. I was done. I didn‘t know what the problem was. I finally got the MRI done. They told me, ‘You don‘t even have a hip basically.‘ Coleman noted that his former sponsor, MMA Elite, kept him on insurance which paid for the surgery, and he‘s grateful. I called them up, basically begged them to keep me on, he said. They stepped up and put me back on insurance. I‘m very grateful to them. This past weekend was big for him in his new role as a full-time spectator. My daughter (Kenzie, 15) took second in the state in gymnastics in level ten, which is the top level. She was a former level nine national champion. Level ten, that‘s the best. She does gymnastics four or five hours a day, for ten or 12 years. It‘s brutal. It‘s amazing the calluses on her hand. That‘s a sign of hard work The goal has been to get her daughter a full athletic scholarship to college. Then he watched Kyle Dake become only the third wrestler in history to win four Division I championships. This year was the 25th anniversary of when Coleman, wrestling for Ohio State, won the tournament at 190 pounds. That was one of the biggest matches ever, he said of the 165-pound final on Saturday night. Kyle Dake was going for his fourth title in four different weight classes. The guy he wrestled was no slouch. David Taylor is a great wrestler. I‘m glad they made it the last match of the night. It was like a UFC main event. That was a big night for wrestling. I think Dake will do a great job being a spokesperson for wrestling. It‘s going to be super intense for him against Jordan Burroughs (the 2012 Olympic gold medalist at 165 pounds). They‘re in the same weight they‘re going to going to go at it for the next world and Olympic trials. Jordan Burroughs (the defending gold medalist at 165 pounds), he‘s a hero to many. He‘s incredibly good. Coleman immediately thought back to when he was a college freshman in 1984, and lost to Doug Dake, Kyle‘s father, then a redshirt senior. It‘s been a long road since then for Coleman, one of UFC‘s first superstars and one of only nine members in its Hall of Fame. Coleman came into the UFC in 1996, after failing to make the Olympic team at 220 pounds, a weight class won by Kurt Angle, who went on to win the gold medal. Coleman represented the U.S. in the 1992 Olympics, placing seventh. The year before, he placed second in the world championships. Mentally burned out, he took a few years off before coming back, and even then, he had watched the UFC and was trying to figure out how to get in it. I started a comeback in 1995, he said. I actually beat Kurt Angle that year on three months of training. I beat the defending world champion, but then he put in more time than I did. He made the team and won the gold. He was a heck of a wrestler. Kurt, he was the hardest worker. He outworked everybody. I had four years on him. I used to get the better of him in practice, but then he caught up to me. He got bigger and stronger. He was in phenomenal shape. He never got tired, and if he did get tired, he certainly didn‘t show it. I got a lot of praise for Kurt Angle. He also credits Angle with literally saving his neck ten years later. I was having n…

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