Chandler Cole works part-time as a substitute teacher at L.F. Addington Middle School in Wise, VA. He’s not an average substitute who just sits quietly after providing his class with the work their teacher provided, though. Cole is also a professional mixed martial artist who entertains whichever classes he teaches with stories from his budding fighting career.
“I love being around the kids,” Cole told MMASucka. “They love the fact that I fight. I’m constantly talking to the kids about my career.”
The students are so keenly interested that Cole said they’re disappointed when he has to drop stories from his MMA life in favor of having them actually do the work that was assigned.
“I told them if I ever got a chance to give them a shoutout in an interview, I would,” Cole said. “This is their shoutout.”
Otherwise, Cole seems like an ordinary 23-year-old from a small-town in Virginia. He described Coeburn as a small mining town where “everybody knows everybody” where the nearest mall is 75 minutes away by car.
Cole’s status as a Coeburn resident serves as his well of motivation as an athlete.
“When it comes to opportunities, it’s hard for someone from a small town to get recognized,” Cole said. “I want to show everybody it doesn’t matter where you’re from. If you put the work in, you’ll make it.”
Cole is currently a 3-1 professional MMA fighter after a successful 12-0 run as an amateur. Now, he’s on the cusp of the biggest opportunity of his life.
“This is an opportunity I can’t pass up”
One recent morning, Cole woke up, and, as we all tend to do, checked his phone. What he saw shocked him. He had numerous people messaging him about the UFC opening up Season 28 of The Ultimate Fighter to heavyweights, the weight class that Cole belongs to.
“I was saying, ‘This is an opportunity I can’t pass up,'” Cole said. “This is just another stepping stone for me and this is my chance to get my foot in the door. This is my chance to get my face shown and win The Ultimate Fighter.”
He will fly to Las Vegas on May 21 for the TUF tryouts scheduled to take place the following day. He’s confident that he’ll make it into the House, which he said would mean everything to him.
“There’s not a lot of athletes that come from here,” Cole said. “Unless you’re a coal miner, you don’t really make any good money. I want to show that if you have a dream, you can reach it. I definitely believe I can do that. I’m a small-town kid with worldwide dreams.”
If he’s selected to participate on the reality show, Cole said he’s most looking forward to being coached by UFC fighters.
“Getting to work with them and pick their brains would be awesome,” he said.
Cole has fought for Valor Fights and LFA throughout his young career. He described himself as a “very fast-paced and aggressive” wrestler. His strength lies in constantly moving forward and grinding opponents out until he finishes them. All three of his professional wins have been stoppages (Two submissions and a TKO). It makes sense that Cole also works as a wrestling coach at Eastside High School in Coeburn, where he graduated.
“If there was a belt system in ground and pound, I’d be a black belt,” he said.
Back to his roots
Cole, who is expecting a child with his girlfriend, said he doesn’t know if he’ll return to substitute at L.F. Addington Middle School or any other school in the area if he achieves his goals of winning TUF and becoming a UFC fighter. But even if he never teaches the kids who look up to him again, he pledged to visit them–hopefully as a UFC fighter, or even better, champion.
“That would be absolutely awesome,” Cole said. “To be able to talk to the kids about it would be the pinnacle of life. That would be the ultimate goal.”
He’d want to share his stories with one more child, though: his own.
“I want to be able to look at my kid one day and say, ‘Hey, I had a dream. I went for it and it paid off for me.”
Cole will take the next step on the fast-track towards his dreams later this month.