Everything comes to an end, including an athlete’s career. Most of them announce their retirement crying at a pedestal with a bunch of journalist and microphones in their face. Only, when it comes to the end of a fighters career, things tend to go a little differently. A lot of athletes don’t know when to hang it up and play for too long. The thing is in basketball, you end up like Kobe or Shaq and for the last few years play as half the player they were in their prime, fight through injury after injury, and then limp on into retirement. A fighter does not have that luxury. Very few fighters get to walk away on a good note, most go out like a professional wrestler, on their backs.
There are countless examples of fighters, great fighters even, who just cannot seem to take a punch at the end of their career. They start getting knocked out with punches they used to be able walk through with ease. They never give it up after the first knock out either. It always takes three or four for them to realize they don’t have it anymore. Every time these guys sign another fight, it leaves all the fans to just shake their head and say “damn, he’s going to get knocked out”. So what makes a fighter keep going?
Some people may say it is because they’re gladiators and they love to fight, but thats bull shit. The correct answer is the obvious one, money. Nick Diaz has always been vocal about not loving fighting, but it is all he knows. “I dropped out of school when I was 16, I was a professional fighter at 18, I have never had a job in my life, what else am I gonna do?”.
All the legendary fighters from when the UFC first blew up are all retired except for a few guys. All those fighters did less than half of what people know today about taking care of their bodies so when they started to age, they aged quickly and drastically.
Urijah Faber was the first of the old generation and basically the first out of anyone who went out on his own terms. He was not he champion caliber fighter he one was, but he was still a high level fighter and got to walk out with a victory. I hope that this new generation of fighters will be better set up for retirement, and I think they will. For a few reasons, one being the fact that people take a lot better care of their bodies now and the other being that there is more money to be made in the sport now a days and gives fighters the opportunity to make as much money as they can and get out as young as they can. We will start to see fighters retiring younger than previous generations and be healthy enough to move on to other things.
It is difficult at times to watch fighters that you can see lost it and still put their brain through more trauma. People have told me they can’t watch the UFC sometimes because the blood and violence is hard to watch. Personally, the hardest thing to watch is seeing a fighter get into the octagon past his years and have to watch with one eye open, cringing, just waiting for the time to come until he gets knocked out.
A fighter’s end is bitter. Hopefully in this new age we will start to get away from that and be smarter about weight cuts and concussions and fighters will be able to walk away, financial set and healthy. It is a new age of MMA and it starts with being smart about ones health.