Very few fighters seem to know when to retire. There is something in their make up. Something about their competitiveness that makes it difficult to walk away. They are fighters. Few have options outside of fighting. Most need the money. Most want to prove they can still fight at a high level. We can name many icons who did not walk away well. Not long ago, Brian Stann retired. He could have still fought, made money and won fights. However, he knew it was time. He knew that damage would be irreversible. Few can do that. We look at several fighters who should start to think more about retirement and give the cases for and against walking away from their professional fighting careers.
The case for retirement: Dan Henderson is a legend of legends. He will go down as one of the greatest American mixed martial artists of all time. The two division PRIDE champion has a amazing resume. Hendo has seemed to defy father time. The biggest reason for retirement for him is his age. Henderson is 44 years old. He has stayed competitive with the elite of the elite in the UFC, but it may be time to step away. Perhaps time has finally caught up with him. He has lost 4 of his last 5. He has spoken of his next fight being at middleweight, which win or lose could be his last stand. No one wants to see the once iron chinned, Henderson start getting viciously knocked out. I see no point in him continuing to fight. He has little left to prove. He should be financially set.
The case against retirement: Yes, Henderson has lost 4 of his last 5 fights, but he lost to Lyoto Machida, Vitor Belfort, Rashad Evans and Daniel Cormier. There are countless other elite fighters that would lose 4 of 5 going through that gauntlet. I will add that only one of those losses came by way of TKO. Its not like Henderson has a ledger of being knocked out in his career.
What will he do? He will fight again for sure.
The case for retirement: Perhaps as loud of cries for anyone’s retirement has been the ones for Shogun. His quick KO loss to Ovince St. Preux makes the case for retirement strong. Shogun has been in some great battles in his career. Those battles are bound to add up. Honestly, he has little left to prove. He is an all-time great. He won the UFC light heavyweight title as well as a PRIDE tournament championship. The concern for Shogun is his long term health. His chin isn’t what it used to be, and I do not know how many times we want to see him knocked unconscious. Add to that the several knee injuries throughout his career. His body has paid the price for his sport. On top of the health concerns for Shogun, I am not sure he is still competitive. I am not sure he is even a top 15 light heavyweight in the world any more. I have heard that his family and especially his brother want him to retire, but he refuses. I have also heard that he has some questionable associates and really does not train like he should. It shows. Shogun is a shell of his former self.
The case against retirement: Shogun is 32, not 42. Yes, he has lost some fights recently, but I might suggest that things are not as bad as people are making them out to be. He got caught in the last fight with St. Preux. It happens to other fighters all the time. Since losing his title to Jon Jones, Shogun is 3-5. A closer look at that record shows us that he lost a narrow decision to Dan Henderson, got caught early by Chael Sonnen in a choke, and fought a lackluster fight to a decision with Alexander Gustafsson. Gustafsson is probably the number 2 light heavyweight in the world and Shogun stayed 5 rounds with him. My point is that Shogun is not at Chuck Liddell levels of getting KO’d by everything.
What will he do? He is coaching TUF Brazil 4 opposite Anderson Silva. He has hinted at a move to 185. He will fight again.
The case FOR retirement: Mir is 35 years old. He has lost four fights in a row. Is he just in a slump? Or is he done hanging with the best heavyweights in the world? Mir is another guy that has taken a lot of damage in his career. Brock Lesnar probably forever damaged Mir. Seven times in Mir’s career he has been stopped by TKO. That is a lot. If you also add to that the affect that his horrible motorcycle accident had on his body you have to be concerned about his long term health. Mir like many others has little to prove. He is a former UFC champion. He has some of the greatest moments in heavyweight history. He has a family. He has the ability to teach after fighting. Why fight again? I am not sure what fights make sense for him right now. Ok, he could fight once more, but if he loses, the UFC probably is forced to cut him. Keep your dignity, Frank.
The case against retirement: Mir claims to be reinvented. He is a guy who still has some interesting fight opportunities. He is also always dangerous with his submissions. It isn’t like Mir is getting KO’d every time out there. His chin has held up.
What will he do? Probably give it one more.
The case FOR retirement: We don’t usually talk about Roy Nelson in the conversation of those who need to hang it up. However, Roy is 38 years old. He has lost 3 of his last 4 and shown signs of a weakening chin. Nelson has relied on his iron chin. He has been in some serious brawls and taken some serious damage. Perhaps he could fight some more, but why? I would tell him to quit before the damage is done. He isn’t going to beat the best in the UFC’s heavyweight division and he risks doing further damage to his brain. Big Country should just retire, then he can eat what he wants and train when (and where) he wants.
The case against retirement: I love Big Country. He has a sort of cult following. There is still big money to be made. A couple more fights. A fight of the night or KO of the night bonus could really be nice for Roy.
What will he do? He will fight again.
Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira
The case FOR retirement: Big Nog is one of the best heavyweight of all time. Scratch that, he is one of the best mixed martial artists of all time. He is also one of the best human beings of all time. He is a legend. People in the MMA world look up to him like no other. Has there ever been a tougher fighter than Biog Nog? He at one time almost seemed impossible to KO. Yes, he could still win fights (maybe), but why? He has won UFC and PRIDE titles. He has a thriving MMA gym. Nogueira has taking a licking in his career. It shows. He is 38, but looks like he is 48. He has had knee surgeries, shoulder, elbow and countless other injuries. Dude, its time to step away.
The case against retirement: *crickets*
What will he do? Probably fight once more.
The case FOR retirement: He is 38 years old and injured more than any fighter in UFC history. I refuse to make a “pull out” joke about how many fights Little Nog has withdrawn from. Like so many of the others on this list, the combination of his age and cumulative damage throughout his career is reason to hang ‘em up. I hate to see Little Nog become prospect fodder.
The case against retirement: The case isn’t quite as bad with him as it is with his brother. Save the Anthony Johnson fight, it had been a while since he was KO’d. So he has only been KO’s twice since 2007 (Anthony Johnson and Sokoudjou). Although the fight stunk, he did beat Rashad Evans in 2013. There are still winnable fights for him in the UFC.
What will he do? He will fight again.
The case FOR retirement: He is 34 years old and he has lost 3 of his last 4. All those loses have come by KO, some pretty spectacular. Overeem has 51 professional MMA fights on his record. He also has many kickboxing fights on his record too. He has a great resume to hang his hat on. He is a former Strikeforce and DREAM champion. He is a former K-1 champion. Sure, the UFC title would be nice, but it isn’t happening. I have serious questions about his chin now.
The case against retirement: I still think Overeem is fun to watch, or at least the though of what Overeem could/should be is fun to watch. He has made big steps to improve. He has moved to Jackson’s gym in New Mexico. He may have a few years left in the tank. Career revival is not impossible.
What will he do? He is fighting Stefan Struve in December (who maybe should consider retirement himself)
The case FOR retirement: Anderson is the GOAT. But that GOAT is 39 years old. Perhaps age finally caught up to him. He has take relatively little damage in his career, but the KO loss followed by the broken leg to Chris Weidman may tell me its time for him to step away. My question for Anderson is…why? Talk about having nothing to prove. The recovery from that leg injury maybe is a bigger question to me than his chin.
The case against retirement: Anderson got clipped by Weidman and then a freak injury gave him two losses in the UFC. That does not mean he is done. I think we could explain away both losses. Anderson is a fighter. He is a competitor. He wants to end on a good note. He just re-signed with UFC for 15 fights. Granted, no one expects him to fight 15 more times. There are still fights for him.
What will he do? He fights Nick Diaz next, then coaches TUF Brazil 4.
The case FOR retirement: Post-TRT Vitor will be slower, older, and more hittable.
The case against retirement: We do not know that post-TRT Vitor will be worse than pre-TRT Vitor. His record does nothing to convince me he needs to retire.
What will he do? He fights Weidman for the middleweight title
The case FOR retirement: Cung Le is 42 years old. He is coming off a drug test failure (sort of). He is a former champion with little to prove. He has acting options which seem to be priority number one. It is not good for fighting at this level to be a hobby.
The case against retirement: He hasn’t taken the damage of a lot of the guys on this list. He was beat by Bisping, but that doesn’t mean he should retire. With UFC’s entrance into the Asian market there is money to be made for Cung Le. There are exciting fights for him still. I am up for just watching him fight a few interesting fights.
What will he do? My guess is: he fights once more.
The case FOR retirement: He is not far from 36 years old. He has shown signs of not being what he once was. The middleweight division is better and stronger than ever and he is going to be swallowed up in it. It is doubtful that he ever moves past being a gatekeeper in the division. Yes, he can still beat a lot of UFC middleweights, but what is the point? Maybe for money?
The case against retirement: Bisping has rarely not been competitive in a fight. He has a good resume. He is a fan draw. He can headline events still. He can beat most guys outside of the top 10.
What will he do? Little doubt he fights again
A few others who should consider hanging them up: Mark Munoz, Takanori Gomi and Josh Barnett
So many current fights should probably think about retirement, but one big issue is the money. Maybe not for these guys, but for lower level guys who haven’t been at the top of the world. Guys like Charlie Brennerman. I would love to see UFC and other MMA organizations develop some type of fighter pension or retirement fund. Maybe putting away a certain amount for each fighter per fight. Maybe ensuring career opportunities post-fighting. Whatever the case, we need to make sure that the driving force behind staying in fighting is not future financial uncertainty (this is not just a MMA issue, it happens in NFL everyday).