Eastside wrestling coach regains passion to pursue MMA career

Kevin Mays • Jul 19, 2018 at 7:41 PM

COEBURN — Chandler Cole has had his share of disappointments in life.

He’s also had many positives.

The 23-year-old wrestling coach at Eastside High School in Coeburn chooses each day to focus on the positives.

As he returns to the pro ring Saturday for his first MMA fight since October, Cole is focusing on the positives again. However, he readily admits getting back to focusing on the positives has not always been easy.

“I’m excited,” Cole said of Saturday’s Valor Fights heavyweight championship battle against undefeated Aaron Bush, of Ohio, at the D3 Sports Complex in Johnson City.

“I’m super excited to show people how I can bounce back and what I can do. I’m excited to show people that I’ve still got it and I’m back.”


Until recently, Cole was almost on cruise control through his MMA career.

Working hard in the gym and at the top of his game day in and day out, Cole spent three years building a successful amateur career, amassing a 12-0 record.

In August 2016, Cole won his first professional fight. His second fight came in March of the next year. He won that one also and improved to 2-0 as a pro.


Cole was hit with a setback in last July when he lost his first fight as a professional or an amateur.

The rising star was upended by fellow rising star Tebaris Gordon of North Carolina.

Cole rebounded from the loss with a win over Dustin Dyer to improve to 3-1 in October.


Then in May, Cole took a trip to Las Vegas to compete with some of the best across the country in tryouts for “Ultimate Fighter,” a reality television show focused on up and coming MMA fighters competing for a coveted spot with the UFC Championship series.

Although he did not make the final cut, he said he learned a lot from the experience.


Despite the wisdom he garnered from his “Ultimate Fighter” experience, Cole said the last year or so has been a struggle to keep his focus on his career.

“I lost some of the passion to be doing it,” Cole said. “I haven’t had a fight since October because I just needed to find myself and get that passion back.

“I’ve been finding myself again, finding the fighter that I was.”

As he enters Saturday’s event, Cole said the passion is back and he’s ready to continue to pursue his dream of becoming a pro MMA fighter on the national circuit.

This weekend’s fight, he said, will be the first step in getting back on track toward his dream, and it will be a tough contest, the toughest of his career.


Saturday’s Cole vs. Bush heavyweight championship battle is the main event on the card of nine MMA matches.

The action is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m.