Somewhere around Chuck Liddell’s 32nd brain-altering concussion, I transitioned from ardent MMA nut-hugger to sober realist, and began seeing just how much brain trauma these fighters subject themselves to for the sake of sport. Don’t get me wrong, I love watching fights in the cage, and I know full well that these athletes willingly accept these risks as part and parcel of the whole “shed blood for a living” thing. So this isn’t me speaking out against the ills of unarmed combat, nor is it me asking for everyone to join hands and sing “Kumbayah” in the name of all the grey matter that’s leaked out onto the Octagon floor. Heck no. It is, however, me broaching the subject of expiration dates, and how, like that carton of 2% milk sitting in your fridge, each and every one of the warriors we watch set foot in the cage must at some point call it quits.
That’s right. I’m talking about the “Must Retire” list of 2013.
Now, before you get your panties in a bunch, let me lay out my beliefs. I believe that every fighter should have the right to choose when their fistic journey is over – until they prove that they’re too stupid (or brain-addled, or punch drunk, or Phil Baroni) to know when the ride is done. In those instances, someone else should make that decision for them. (Fun fact: the first time the New Jersey State Athletic Control Board took away the license of an MMA fighter they deemed as sucking too much for his own good was in 2004.) I’m also a firm believer in second chances, and third chances, and fourth chances, etc., until the threshold of fighter safety vs. fighter making himself retarded is reached. Then it’s “sorry, bro, no more chances. You’re going to either die or become the intellectual equivalent of a cucumber, and that won’t be fun to watch.”
Here, then, is the list of those who should hang up the gloves. Some of them are great fighters who’ve lost that thing that made them special and elite and almost superhuman. Some of them could still beat the majority of the fighters out there, and could probably earn some sort of paycheck on the regional MMA scene, which might help them make a mortgage payment, but would do nothing to assuage the tears that come when they try to recall Dana White’s loving embrace but only remember Yves Lavigne standing over them saying, “Mon dieu, il est mort.”
- Roxanne Modafferi - I am not Ryan Harkness. I know that, you know that, everyone knows that. I do love Roxy as a person and as a fighter, just like Ryan does. However, unlike Ryan, I am not her cheerleader, and I think her time has passed. She, like so many of her contemporaries, kept the female side of MMA alive when no one gave a shit about even the male side of the sport. But the likable girl that gets into the cage now is a shadow of the girl who took on Laura D’Auguste and Tara LaRosa (two fights I watched from ringside). You think Sarah Kaufman and Jessica Rakoczy could have slammed Roxy unconscious if they fought the 2008 version of her? Hells naw. Roxy accomplished a lifelong goal by fighting in the UFC on Saturday. Now it’s time for her to stop fighting and maybe do some coaching or something.
- Gray Maynard - Yeah, he’s still a tough dude with a lot to offer, but it’s getting easier and easier to flick his “off” switch, and that’s an alarming thing to see. Remember how Matt Hughes got towards the end? Maynard needs to take a lengthy sabbatical and grow those brain cells back, or he needs to call it quits.
- Josh Koscheck - See Gray Maynard. Koscheck has accomplished a lot, so there’s no shame in taking an indefinite break.
- Nate Marquardt - Apparently, when you go off TRT, Father Time catches up to you and kicks you square in the nuts.
- Yves Edwards - Sure, Edwards has still got skills, but he’s 0-3 in 2013. Add to that the fact that he’s got 64 fights to his record and has been competing since 1997, and you’ve got guy on the precipice of turning from fine wine into vinegar. And vinegar tastes crappy, my friends. It tastes very crappy.
- Frank Mir - Granted, his last win was an impressive arm-break over Big Nog, but homeboy hasn’t won since 2011.
- BJ Penn - He may be coaching opposite Frankie Edgar on the next season of TUF, and hasn’t fought in all of 2013, but his last win was over Matt Hughes in 2010. Why does Penn need to get into the cage again? Why?
This is my list. Agree or disagree at your own peril. I know a lot of insults and I’m not afraid to use them.