“I don’t know if I have any business fighting at this level anymore.”
– Carlos Condit in post-fight press conference on Saturday.
With these words, Carlos Condit brought the entire MMA community to a harsh and all-too-familiar reality. Following his split decision loss to Robbie Lawler in a brutally entertaining title fight at UFC 195, Condit had brought up talks of retirement. He cited his fighting style and amount of punishment taken over a career as reasons that his life as a fighter may soon come to an end. He eventually accepted a fight with Demian Maia that occurred this previous Saturday. Before the fight, Condit did not deny that retirement still remained at the forefront of his thoughts.
The fight with Maia was expected to be exciting and competitive as both fighters sit in the top 5 of the UFC welterweight division. Unfortunately for Condit, the fight was all Maia and Condit was submitted within the first two minutes of the fight. After Condit tapped and Maia released the submission, Condit remained on the canvas. Not injured, Condit appeared too dejected to stand. It was a somber and grim look into the mindset of a fighter.
Fan love fighters who put on entertaining performances. Condit has been one of these fighters his entire career and it pains fans to think of him walking away. It is this sort of pressure and admiration from fans that can keep fighters active, trying to win and entertain longer than their own safety should allow.
There are a number of fighters who stuck around the fight game too long. Gary Goodridge had nearly 15 years between MMA and kickboxing before he retired. He ended his career after being knocked out in four consecutive fights. Goodridge has since been very open about his struggles with dementia pugilistica, which is the same condition that many NFL players suffer from following a career of brain-wobbling hits. Former UFC fighter Ken Shamrock soldiers on in his career despite going an abysmal 4-11 since 2001. His numerous failed drug tests carry the belief that Shamrock has attempted to utilize steroids to invigorate his failing career.
It is rare to see a fighter able to end his career on a win and walk away from the game on a high note. It is easy to see the mindset behind such a belief. When they reach the twilight of their career, fighters will look for a win. Once they gain such a win, the feeling of victory can be overwhelming and they will attempt to stick around to win another contest. When they lose the following fight, the cycle begins again.
The most mainstream fighter who managed to retire on a high note and stay retired would be UFC fighter Chris Lytle. Lytle was a crowd favorite action-fighter who had made it clear his goals were to entertain first and be a title contender second. After a 12 year career in MMA, in 2011 he was given a UFC headlining spot in Milwaukee against British fighter Dan Hardy. At the weigh-ins, Lytle handed UFC president Dana White an envelope containing his retirement notice following the fight. Lytle would win the fight via submission and announce his retirement in the ring surrounded by his children where he was given a standing ovation from the crowd.
Condit’s current spot lies somewhere between both paths. He sits on a two-fight losing streak, one being a quick submission and the other being a very close battle and Fight of the Year against the division champion. Behind those losses, he has a library of exciting and defining moments that span nearly 15 years. He may never be able to end his career on a win but he has the chance to leave before he becomes a fighter we pity more than enjoy.
(Matthew Peterson is an MMATorch contributor who has been a fan of MMA since he first watched UFC 100. He currently resides with his wife in St. Cloud, Minn. He believes that Chris Lytle was God’s gift to fight fans and Cowboy Cerrone comes in at a close second. He can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @mattpete1088.)