UFC

Coleman joins Penn's coaching staff

Mark Coleman
The UFC hall of famer returns to the Octagon as a coach on TUF 19.
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Damon Martin

Damon Martin is a veteran mixed martial arts journalist who has been covering the sport since 2004. His work has been published in CNN, Bleacher Report, MMAWeekly.com, Yahoo! Sports, UFC.com and SportsIllustrated.com. He also co-hosts The Great Debate Radio MMA podcast, and has appeared on ESPN Radio and SportsNet Radio. Follow him on Twitter.

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UFC Hall Of Famer Mark Coleman was shocked and honored to get a call from BJ Penn asking him to be his wrestling coach on the next season of The Ultimate Fighter, and he's excited to give back to the next crop of fighters hoping to achieve their dreams.

Mark Coleman is a legend of the UFC Octagon for a myriad of accomplishments including being the first ever heavyweight champion, and he was honored as a UFC Hall Of Fame inductee in 2008.

The man who is known as "The Godfather of Ground and Pound" competed in the UFC on and off for more than 14 years before he finally retired from competition in early 2013.

Now the former Ohio State wrestler and MMA legend will return home to the UFC as part of BJ Penn's coaching staff for the 19th season of The Ultimate Fighter when he goes up against Frankie Edgar in the next incarnation of the show.

"Me and BJ Penn have been friends since the beginning of this thing, and I consider him a great friend. Hopefully he respects my ability to coach some wrestling and hopefully help his team win this Ultimate Fighter," Coleman told FOX Sports on Friday. "That's the goal to win in the end. I guess he's got confidence in me and he offered me the position to be his wrestling coach on the show. I'm extremely honored and excited to be on the show.

"Here we go, I'm going to have to put my hip to the test."

Coleman's last comment is in reference to the hip replacement surgery he underwent in 2013 that brought his MMA career to a close. It wasn't until that surgery that Coleman actually declared his retirement from the sport.

Now at 48 years of age, Coleman is excited to return to the UFC in a new capacity as coach on The Ultimate Fighter alongside Penn. The former All-American wrestler has been a teacher for his entire career, including his time as the captain and creator of The Hammer House — one of the first true super teams in all of mixed martial arts.

With his own fight career behind him, Coleman wants to pass on his encyclopedia's worth of knowledge onto the next generation of fighters and right now there's no better way to do that than to coach on the long-running UFC reality show.

"I've always wanted to be able to give back somehow, and one of the few ways I can give back in general is to help kids like this achieve their goals," Coleman said. "I absolutely love being able to help somebody and give back. Hopefully these kids remember me, and if not I'll remind them. We're going to have a great time."

Coleman admits that it wasn't easy to give up fighting even when he did. On the day he retired earlier this year because of hip surgery, Coleman hadn't actually fought in three years, but somewhere deep inside his soul he didn't want to acknowledge that his competitive career was over.

Well, as it turns out Coleman's still competing, he just gets to live vicariously through the youth movement of tomorrow via the best fighters vying to get to the UFC by way of The Ultimate Fighter.

"I'm hoping to do my best to turn one of these guys into a champion," Coleman said. "The closest thing to actually being in the ring and fighting is getting to know a fighter, and training him and actually watching him in there."

Getting the call from Penn to join his team was a humbling moment for Coleman. He's considered the Hawaiian legend among his closest friends for several years, but it meant the world to him to have Penn ask him personally to help coach his team.

Coleman will now join Brazilian jiu-jitsu coach Andre Pederneiras, striking coach and kickboxing legend Rob Kaman and boxing coach Jason Parillo on Penn's coaching staff.

"It's hard to put it into words. The word 'honored', everybody uses it too much, but I really am just honored that this guy would want to use me as his coach," Coleman said. "I'm honored that he respects me enough to handle this position. I don't take it lightly. It's going to be a serious job to me out there. I don't have a whole lot of idols, but BJ Penn is one of them. I love the guy. For him to ask me to do this, I can't put it into words. Hopefully, I can do a good job with him and as long as he's happy with me, I'm good."

Coleman will head to Las Vegas in the next few weeks to begin his stint as coach on The Ultimate Fighter 19 alongside Penn. He will also be a special guest of the UFC in November at UFC 167 when they celebrate their 20th anniversary ahead of the fight card featuring welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre against Johny Hendricks in the main event. Coleman will also be launching a new series of t-shirts as part of the celebration for a line called "Legends of the Grind", which will feature the former UFC champion and his legendary team at The Hammer House.

The Ultimate Fighter 19 will debut on FOX Sports 1 in early 2014.

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