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Retirement In MMA: What It Really Means

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Retirement in MMA has lost its meaning and there is no secret of that. Everyone from Stefan Struve to Alexander Gustafsson has placed their gloves in the middle of the cage just to return months later. Join me as I talk about the ruthless passion behind mixed martial arts and how meaningless retirement has become.

A Love Too Strong For A Game Too Cruel

Combat sports is unforgiving and there is no other way to put it. We have seen thousands of knockouts and so many one-sided performances, it almost feels illegal to watch at times. But when do you call it quits? It’s never for a fan to say, only the athletes themselves can decide when they finish with the gloves and call it a day. The UFC has homed some of the greatest competitors in combat sports history but the end of their tenure always seems to be too short-lived.

Sometimes it is good to see retirement in MMA become unfulfilled especially with young fighters that have so much more to prove. But it still has ended up damaging the meaning behind retiring, and we as fans never know when we can fully appreciate a career as these veterans don’t have any quit in them. From the likes of Conor McGregor to BJ Penn, the list of fighters to come out of retirement is very, very long.

JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA – MAY 09: Henry Cejudo talks with UFC president Dana White after announcing his retirement in the Octagon after his UFC bantamweight championship fight during the UFC 249 event at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena on May 09, 2020 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

This is a game that is hard to get out of, the love for martial arts practices and then the heat of the competition is so thrilling. Whether it be a ring or a cage, the UFC, or a backyard, there is something about the discipline and the heart you can show in competition leaving many athletes to stay in the game for too long.

Too Soon

One of the world’s biggest stars even beyond MMA, Conor McGregor has retired countless times all by way of Twitter but the majority of the reasoning behind retiring was balanced on the fine line of comfortability in success and frustration in defeat. The “Notorious” one is a billionaire, he owns multiple companies such as McGregor Fast and August McGregor, in fact, he is so comfortable with his money that he just sold his whiskey brand “Proper Twelve Irish Whiskey” for a few million dollars.

McGregor has also retired after frustration to not get a fight he wants or just after a devastating loss. But after being knocked out by Dustin Poirier at UFC 257, he looks genuinely hungry to compete in the sport once again. He is campaigning for a trilogy match against “The Diamond” and everything seems to be leading to it for a possible international fight week headliner this summer.

Too Late

One of the sadder cases when it comes to retirement in MMA is with the light heavyweight champion and combat sports legend, “The Iceman” Chuck Liddel. Beloved by fans for having a crazy anti wrestling style and a pace to match, the veteran has seen the highest of highs and the lowest of lows when it comes to achievements in this sport. Liddel has completed a good amount of them. The moment that we as fans realized Liddel may have been entering the last leg of his career was after being brutally knocked out by Rashad Evans. He tried to come back against Shogun Rua and Rich Franklin but ultimately came up short.

VANCOUVER, CANADA – JUNE 12: Rich Franklin (pink/brown shorts) def. Chuck Liddell (blue shorts) – KO – 4:55 round 1 during UFC 115 at GM Place on June 12, 2010 in Vancouver, Canada. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

After his loss to Franklin, he decided to call it a day and retired from the sport known as mixed martial arts. But an unhealthy love for the sport and a toxic grudge for his biggest enemy proved too much for him as he was grabbed by Golden Boy MMA promotions to face off against former foe Tito Ortiz. Only four minutes into the first and “The Iceman” was melted by the pressure and power of Ortiz. He hasn’t competed since and it is safe to say that we fans are very thankful to see that he made a real life-threatening mistake and is now focussing on his family.

Just The Right Time

One of the better examples of putting the gloves down in this sport lies with UFC lightweight GOAT Khabib Nurmagomedov. He defeated Justin “The Highlight” Gaethje in his first, last, and only bout since his father’s passing. He is the epitome of greatness in the sport and although he still seems intrigued by competition there will be no surprise if he stays retired as he wants to fulfill his mother’s wish of living a healthy safe life. He has already started his own mixed martial arts organization and trains with amazing prospects from Dagestan, Russia.

“The Eagle” was very emotional about retiring but being undefeated, he has proved that retirement in MMA doesn’t have to come after too many bouts resulting in losses. If you chose to be smart you can project your love for the sport and protect your health without competing. Khabib will prove a healthy role model and will educate future champions which therefore makes his legacy live on without having to suffer from unnecessary damage. Fans can only hope he stays retired as his cemented legacy is already one that proves almost impossible to level with and even more so to surpass.

Retirement in MMA is something that is so overlooked now as the meaning has been lost but hopefully the greats of today will be smarter than the greats of yesterday. Although these legends are always entertaining to watch sometimes, it pains us fans, and seeing a healthy competitor cement their legacy and calling it a day is something we really should see more often.


Follow me on Twitter @LeoJJohnson20 and follow @OTHeroicsMMA for more great content! And don’t forget our Instagram, overtimeheroics_mma. Come discuss this and much more at the Overtime Heroics forums!

Featured Image Credits to Embed from Getty Images

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