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In a Different Time for MMA, Coleman Was Ready to Fight a Friend

One of the dilemmas that increasingly seems to frustrate both MMA promoters and fans is the refusal of friends and teammates to fight each other. The guys who train with Greg Jackson don't want to fight each other. The guys who train at American Kickboxing Academy don't want to fight each other. The guys who train at Black House don't want to fight each other. Babalu Sobral says he doesn't want the Strikeforce light heavyweight title fight he just earned because he's friends with the champion, Mo Lawal. And so on.

That's why it was nice to read, in Jake Rossen's expansive look at the 2000 Pride openweight tournament, the words of Mark Coleman on the subject.

Coleman won that wild 16-man Pride tournament a decade ago, and one of the other entrants was his friend and training partner, Mark Kerr. Although Coleman and Kerr didn't have to fight because Kazuyuki Fujita beat Kerr in the quarterfinals, Coleman wouldn't have hesitated to fight Kerr if the tournament bracket had brought them together.

"In my mind, there wasn't anything to talk about," Coleman said. "Yes, he's a friend, but it made no difference to me. He might've thought differently, but if I had to fight him, I would've had only one thing on my mind."

Rossen's piece goes into great detail about the Pride tournament, examining the assembling of a field that included everyone from the original UFC champion, Royce Gracie, to the Japanese star Gracie fought in an epic 90-minute war, Kazushi Sakuraba, to pro wrestlers who had no business in MMA but were welcomed with open arms because they could draw fans to the Tokyo Dome.

Mostly, the piece shows how far the sport has come in the decade since Coleman won that tournament. What Pride assembled in 2000 was as much spectacle as it was sport, and some of the things that went on in 2000 will seem unthinkable to fans who have only been following MMA in the last couple of years.

But when it comes to friends fighting friends, I'll take Coleman's attitude over that of today's fighters any day.