UFC legend Mark Coleman has opened up about being the victim of sexual assault by Dr. Richard Strauss while attending Ohio State University.
Coleman is a UFC Hall of Famer and former UFC and PRIDE heavyweight champion. He is one of the greatest mixed martial artist of all time and a legend in every sense of the word. Nicknamed “The Godfather of Ground and Pound,” Coleman was a successful amateur wrestler before making the transition to MMA in 1996. He was an All-American wrestler at Miami of Ohio before transferring to OSU in 1986 for his senior season. That’s where he, along with more than 350 athletes, was sexually assaulted by the predator Strauss.
Speaking to Sports Illustrated in a recent interview, Coleman opened up about those dark days. “The Hammer” spoke about the inappropriate physical he received when he first transferred to OSU. Strauss, he says, touched him in a way that was not normal.
“He examined me pretty good. It was an eye-opener. I don’t want to go further than that,” Coleman said.
Coleman said that after that physical he asked other teammates what their experiences were with Strauss. The legend says that it was a “long-running joke” about how Strauss would sit nude on the locker room benches and shower with the athletes. Strauss regularly touched the genitals of the athletes during examinations even when it was not necessary to do so. But everyone just laughed it off. No one talked about how it was sexual assault.
The SI story notes that Strauss had several nicknames including “Dr. Feel Good,” “Dr. Jelly Fingers,” “Dr. Balls,” “Dr. Nuts,” and “Dr. Drop-Your-Drawers.” Coaches would joke to the athletes that if they didn’t work harder in practice they would have to see Strauss.
Coleman said that he knew what Strauss did to him was wrong. But in the 1980s, the conversation of sexual assault was not as open as it is in 2020. Coleman said that because he was on a scholarship he kept his mouth shut even though he knew something wasn’t right. Coleman, like other athletes, didn’t realize that they were being sexually assaulted.
“We never thought a man could sexually abuse a man. We just played it off. We joked about it. But I don’t think we were really joking,” Coleman said.
The UFC Hall of Famer said that he accepted what was happening and didn’t speak up because he knew that Strauss could end his career as an amateur wrestler.
“This guy controlled my future. We all put up with it. For me, it was like, ‘Just clear me so I can go win an NCAA title and make the Olympic team.’ You know?” Coleman said
“People say, ‘Why would they let a little man do this?’ Well, it’s complicated. You felt powerless. I wasn’t going to stir up sh*t, punch Dr. Strauss in the face and risk everything.”
Mark Coleman is now 55 years old. He says that he often wondered why he was so angry at the world. But looking back at his life, he realizes Strauss was the cause of his pain.
“I didn’t know how bad it was affecting me, but now I look back and I was very angry. I went into practice very angry a lot of times, storming into the wrestling room and screaming. I was confused. I spun it as, ‘Well, it’s good to be angry, I’m gonna have a hell of a practice and kick someone’s ass.’ But now I realize, it wasn’t good and I realize why,” Coleman said.
For Coleman, it was just about survival and trying to reach his goals in the world of amateur wrestling. But like hundreds of other athletes at OSU between 1978 and 1998, Coleman was sexually assaulted by the monster Dr. Richard Strauss, a sexual predator who reportedly committed 1,429 instances of inappropriate fondling and 47 instances of rape.
In 2005, Strauss committed suicide. But for the hundreds of athletes who he sexually assaulted over the span of two decades including Coleman, the scars of what he did to them is something that will never go away. As sports fans, we should commend Mark Coleman on his bravery in speaking out about such a difficult time in his life.