His first love was wrestling, a passion he picked up in high school before making the team at the University of Central Oklahoma, the same school that produced Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal, an NCAA champion who later became the light heavyweight champion of the prestigious Strikeforce MMA promotion.
When his wrestling career had ended, he still had a craving to compete and test himself. Given his fascination with martial arts since catching a glimpse of a Bruce Lee movie at the age of six, it didn’t take long for him to find an early MMA gym, meeting a man named Mike Parker and training what they referred to as ground fighting.
“Once my wrestling career was over, I was looking for another outlet and I started body building and one day I saw two guys grappling, Mike Parker and one of his students. Once they were done, I asked the gym owner about it, and he told me that was some kinda mixed martial arts stuff. He told me I should try karate. I told him I had wrestled before though, so he gave me Mike Parker’s info. I went to Parker’s school in 1991, a year after high school. They called it ground fighting then. I knew after the class that I was hooked for life!”
That was 1991. Two years later Royce Gracie exposed the world to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and how well it worked in a combat tournament called the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
MMA and the UFC have grown rapidly in popularity, but few gyms in the country have an instructor with Coleman’s knowledge base.
He holds the rank of black belt in Japanese Jiu Jitsu – a Judo spinoff and BJJ precursor – and has trained BJJ with the likes of world champion Judo master Pat Burris, and later earning his brown belt in Brazilian Jui Jitsu from another master, Renato Tavares.
As for his striking credentials, Coleman has worked his way up to full instructor level under the tutelage of Arjan Parker and Grandmaster Chai Sirisute. He is one of only two coaches in the Tulsa-Oklahoma City region with such a classification.
Now Coleman’s hard work is starting to show in the success of his students. Along with a slew of Muay Thai and grappling tournament accomplishments, some of his students have reached the pinnacle of MMA. Myron Dennis, the light heavyweight champion for the XFL — the most prestigious promotion in the state — recently made his Bellator Fighting Championships debut in a fight viewed by a national audience. Also, heavyweight Mark Holata, who competed in Bellator’s 265-pound tournament, began his career under the tutelage of Coleman and continues to train with AMA.
“I really feel honored to see the guys take the techniques that I broke down and use those techniques to do so well in their events,” Coleman said. “I’m really proud of the guys and girls.”