When should a fighter call it a day? It’s a question that has no definitive answer. There is no official retirement age, no set of guidelines in place, and so each competitor must arrive at their own decision when they feel the time is right.
For some it will become apparent after a losing streak. Some may give in to the pleas of family and friends after receiving one too many knockouts and others will only finally call it a day as the aches, pains and injuries of a lifetime of combat take their toll.
Of course most mixed martial artists are born fighters with an in-built desire to compete that is not easily switched off. It’s in their nature to battle on against the odds, UFC 249 live stream and so many continue to fight long after the writing is on the wall.
In the first of a two part article we look at some of the most dominant champions and former champions of the UFC’s old guard and assess who still has something to offer, and who would be wise to hang up their gloves and enjoy their retirement.
Randy Couture (16-10) – Age: 46 – 3 Time Heavyweight Champion / 2 Time light heavyweight Champion
The Quintessential veteran competitor, Randy Couture has redefined the age at which MMA fighters are considered able to compete at the highest level.
Couture didn’t start his MMA career until the age of 34, emerging as the winner of UFC 13’s heavyweight tournament in only his second fight. He lost the heavyweight title last year at the age of 45, and won ‘Fight Of The Night’ for his last performance against Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira in September.
Despite losing in his last two outings, Couture still appears to be in remarkable physical condition for his age, and his three round war with Nogueira proved he still has the stamina and skills to compete against the best in the business. How long his body can hold out no one can say for sure. It is, he acknowledges himself, a case of taking it one fight at a time.
Couture recently signed a new 6 fight deal spread over 28 months – he will be 48 if he sees it through until the end.
Verdict: If his time in the octagon has taught us anything, it’s that it’s never wise to count out ‘The Natural’. As one of the sports star names Couture is likely to continue to face the top names the UFC has to offer and, if reverts back to the skills that have brought him the most success in the past, namely his wrestling and dirty boxing skills, he can still pose a threat to whoever he faces.
Mark Coleman (16-9) – Age: 44 – 1st Heavyweight Champion / 2 time Heavyweight Tournament Champion (UFC 10, UFC 11)
The godfather of ground and pound Mark Coleman is the second oldest fighter currently on the UFC’s books. Whilst his physique is still impressive at 44 years of age, time and injuries have clearly taken a toll on one of the UFC’s early stars.
His two fights in the octagon since returning after a 10 year absence have certainly shown courage but there is no disguising the slowed movement and lack of stamina that have become features of the former champions game. There is also an uncomfortable air of desperation when he fights that no doubt stems from the knowledge that one more loss on his record could spell the end of his career.
The news that he has torn his ACL again, forcing him to cancel his upcoming fight with Tito Ortiz is a major set back for the former olympic wrestler who has been prone to injury in the past and again casts doubt over his long term future in the UFC.
Verdict: A champion back in the days when the sport was far less lucrative, Coleman is clearly hoping to reap the rewards as the sport now flourishes. Time is against him however and though his heart and determination can’t be questioned, Coleman’s career appears to be on borrowed time. His victory at UFC 100 may prove to be a fitting last hurrah for a fighter who will have a permanent place in the UFC record books.
Chuck Liddell (21-7) – Age: 39 – 5 time Light Heavyweight champion
As we discussed last week in an article about the UFC’s greatest ever knockout specialists, Chuck Liddell knows more than a thing or two about sending his opponents to sleep. Unfortunately for the former Light Heavyweight champ in his recent fights he’s become better known for taking a nap on the canvas himself.
Like Randy Couture, Liddell has been with the UFC since the early fights of his mixed martial arts career and has become one of the most successful fighters in the history of the sport. Not everyone is fortunate enough to have Couture’s age-defying genetics however, and Liddell’s reputation for partying as hard as he fights was inevitably going to take it’s toll.
As ‘The Iceman’s’ reactions have slowed, so have his number of winning trips to the octagon. In his past five fights he holds only one victory (against another ageing warrior, Wanderlei Silva) having won 15 out of his previous 17 UFC fights.
In his defense those losses have come at the hands of quality opposition such as Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson, Rashad Evans and Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua. Despite this it is evident to most fans that Liddell is not the fighter he once was, and even long time friend Dana White has witnessed the decline first hand has used his influence to put pressure on the star to hang up his gloves after his last fight.