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UFC legend Mark Coleman in financial trouble after hip surgery complications: 'There's about nothing left'

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

A UFC Hall of Famer is in serious financial trouble after doctors found an infection during surgery. And his team is asking for help.

Mark Coleman originally had his hip repaired in 2013, but needed another surgery this week, Coleman's best friend and fellow fighter Wes Sims told MMAFighting.com on Wednesday. When doctors cut him open, they found a bad infection in the hip, which had to be completely removed. Coleman was implanted with a plastic hip that will have to stay in his body for six to eight weeks until the infection subsides.

At that point, Coleman, 50, can have surgery and get a new hip. But until then, the first UFC heavyweight champion and former PRIDE openweight grand prix champ will have to deal with having one leg longer than the other and needing an IV drip every day.

Coleman has health insurance, but it is set to run out in May. Sims said the only income Coleman has is from appearances and autograph signings, which he can't do until he's healthy. And even then, it's not enough.

"That's all he's lived on," Sims said. "He's literally maxed out his checking account. There's about nothing left."

On Tuesday night, without Coleman knowing, Sims started a GoFundMe.com page for his friend to help with his medical costs. Just the IV bags alone cost $24 a pop. Then there's the rehab process, which "The Hammer" has to perform twice -- now and after his next surgery in April or May.

"Mark has given so much to everybody," Sims said. "Memories. He's given his body, really sacrificed his body for the sport. For me, on a personal level, he took a kid with a dream and no experience and made a UFC fighter out of him."

Sims, who has trained with Coleman for almost two decades, said he didn't tell his mentor that he was asking people for help, because Coleman would have refused it.

"Mark Coleman has way too much pride," Sims said. "He won't ask for nothing that he doesn't feel like he's earned."

Sims told Coleman about it Wednesday after an outpouring of support on the page and via e-mail and social media. Sims and Coleman were both brought to tears by messages from fans, one of whom recalled watching Coleman competing in the UFC years ago with his late father.

"I can't thank enough people, because there's been tons of people, tons of people coming out of the woodwork -- writing, calling, offering up their services, offering up money, praise," Sims said. "It's been amazing. It's really been amazing."

The words and sentiments are great, but Coleman is not going to be able to get through this without financial support. There is no such thing as a pension for MMA fighters and Sims admits Coleman was not wise about investing his money. Sims said Coleman's situation is a warning to current fighters.

"You've got to do something more than just fight," Sims said. "You've got to start small businesses, you've got to open a gym, you've got to do other things, too, to have an income. There's only a handful of champions and that's very few. For so many fighters currently in the UFC, only a handful will ever make it to the title or win the title. So if you're just a contender or whatever you want to call it, it could be a really, really rough career."

While some fans wrote that the UFC should step in and take care of Coleman, Sims won't rip the promotion and neither would Coleman. Sims said it takes time to build things like a union and the UFC has only really been big for about 10 years.

"I'm not criticizing the UFC and Mark will never say nothing bad about the UFC," Sims said. "They treated him great. They've always been there."

Just last year, Coleman had a stint as an assistant coach on The Ultimate Fighter 19 as part of B.J. Penn's team. Coleman was grateful for that spot, Sims said, but probably pushed himself too hard on the mats following his first hip surgery in 2013.

Coleman's spirit in the cage extends to how he wants to help fighters now, Sims said.

"He still wants to be part of the UFC," Sims said. "He wants to help the guys that are coming up. He wants to be a mentor to them guys. I wish and I hope there would be a position, that Dana [White] or one of them would say, 'Hey, look we could use Mark Coleman alongside Chuck Liddell, Matt Hughes, Forrest Griffin.' They've got all them guys on payroll. Find something for Mark Coleman."

But right now, Coleman is in need of assistance from others. The GoFundMe page lists the goal as $500,000, but Sims said they will be pleased with however much they get.

"There are so many expenses, it's just going to be outrageous," Sims said. "Anything will help. I'm hoping he gets a lot. Whatever he gets, he appreciates. I know he does."

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