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Big John McCarthy talks about when Wallid Ismail knocked down Tank Abbott in a barfight, and Mark Coleman going nuts

Big John McCarthy talks about when Wallid Ismail knocked down Tank Abbott in a barfight, and Mark Coleman going nuts

It’s important to note that if MMA history had a religious manuscript, Loretta Hunt’s ‘Let’s Get It On‘ book would undoubtedly be it. If you ever wanted to know what the early UFC days were like behind the scenes, you should scoop up Big John McCarthy’s autobiography. A lot of brain cells have been murdered from the time I read ‘Let’s Get It On’ till now, however I do not remember Big John telling the story of how Wallid Ismail and Tank Abbott got into a bar fight after UFC 13 — with Mark Coleman going absolutely nuts for no apparent reason. Fortunately, Paul Lazenby interviewed Big John on his ‘When We Were Bouncers‘ Facebook page, and managed to get this MMA gem. Check it out.

A few years later, I was refereeing and doing a bunch of behind-the-scenes work for the Ultimate Fighting Championship. I wore a lot of hats in that company, and one of my least-favourite duties was keeping people from killing each other at the after parties. It was not an officially-appointed thing — believe me, I didn’t ask for the job — I just ended up doing it because somehow it was always me who was right in the middle whenever things got out of control.

One of the most memorable incidents happened after UFC 13… I’m pretty sure it was 13 because Mark Coleman was the champion at the time.

The show was over and I was hanging out and trying to relax, when I noticed Wallid Ismail [a notoriously crazy Jiu-jitsu fighter] getting into a confrontation with Tank Abbott. They were yelling right in each other’s faces, getting more and more heated, and as usual I was only a few steps away, thinking, “Here we go again!” (laughs)

All of a sudden, Wallid hauled off and CRACKED Tank in the face, knocking him right on his ass! So of course all of Tank’s boys jumped up, and all the Brazilians jumped up, and we were set for a full-scale gang fight.

And as if that wasn’t bad enough, a drunk-off-his-ass Mark Coleman decided to rampage over there like an out-of-control gorilla and start dropping two-handed Mongolian forearm shivers on everybody! So I ran over, picked Mark up from behind, and carried him away while he kept reaching back and trying to hit me, bellowing “LET ME GO!!! LET ME GO!!!” in that booming voice of his.

Now, I had rolled with Coleman a few times before, and I’ll tell you right now that he was the STRONGEST motherfucker I have ever trained with. Just a FREAK. And as if that didn’t make things difficult enough, I had also just made some changes to the UFC rules that probably hadn’t put me in Mark’s good books.

You see, shortly beforehand, [then-UFC owner] Bob Meyrowitz had asked me to change the UFC rulebook to make the sport less brutal and more TV-friendly. So I had taken out things you wouldn’t find in other combat sports, like small-joint manipulation, pressure points, groin attacks… and head butts. Now, removing the head butts wasn’t an easy decision, because I knew that in doing so I was RUINING Mark Coleman. One of his favourite techniques was using that big, melon head of his to bash fighters in the face, and now I was gonna be the guy who took that weapon away from him, so I couldn’t help but think “Man, this guy’s gotta fuckin’ HATE me!” (laughs) So that was front-and-centre in my mind as I tried to figure out what to do with this monster while he went crazy trying to escape my grip.

Finally, I pushed Coleman belly-first into the wall and yelled in his ear, “Mark, it’s John, you gotta stop! You can’t do this, you’re the champ, you’re gonna get in trouble!” But he just kept fighting me and yelling, “LET ME GO, I’M GONNA KILL ‘EM!!! I’LL FUCKIN’ KILL ‘EM!!!”

So we’ve got California street thugs brawling with Brazilian maniacs, I’m holding an out-of-control UFC heavyweight champion against the wall, and all I can think is, “How do I get into these situations?” (laughs)

Thankfully, I managed to get Coleman calmed down enough that I could let him go, and the brawl petered out before anyone got sent to the hospital. Man, I’ll tell you right now — dealing with a bar full of wannabe tough guys is bad, but dealing with an out-of-control room full of the toughest fighters in the world is something straight out of a fuckin’ nightmare!

If the world only knew the amount of cats I’m willing to sacrifice in order to get video of this chaotic incident then — well, I would probably be locked away in prison for animal cruelty. Sorry PETA.

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