Paying tribute to UFC fighters who retired in 2011...
Perhaps more than any other year in recent history, mixed martial arts saw a host of top fighters retire from the sport, ranging from Hall of Famer Randy Couture to action hero Chris Lytle. And while the following fighters won’t be gracing the Octagon again, it’s clear that they’ve made a mark in the sport that won’t be forgotten anytime soon.
One of the top jiu-jitsu fighters to compete in the Octagon, Ricardo Almeida pulled off the impossible in 2008 when he returned for a second stint in the UFC after nearly four years away from the sport. What followed was a 5-3 run that reintroduced the “Big Dog” to the fight world. And while he retired in March at the age of 34, he is producing the next generation of MMA fighters as a coach in his academy in New Jersey.
There is really no way to introduce one of mixed martial arts’ true legends, because everyone knows what Randy Couture has brought to the table for this sport that he helped build. In short, UFC Hall of Famer, five-time UFC champion in two weight classes, and participant in some of the UFC’s greatest battles. So when he decided that his UFC 129 bout with Lyoto Machida was his last, it was a sad moment, but also a time to reflect on a career that is unlikely to ever be matched.
Couture To Retire After Machida Bout
Randy Couture – A Fighters’ Tribute
KEY FIGHT – UFC 43 – TKO3 Chuck Liddell
QUOTABLE – “I want to go out on my terms and decide when enough is enough, and I think that time is come.”
Mirko Cro Cop
Former PRIDE superstar Mirko Cro Cop will be the first to admit that his 4-6 record in the UFC isn’t one that sits well with him, but at the same time, it also won’t define a career that saw him dominate in Japan for years, mainly with his laser-like left hand and even more crushing left kick to the head, the cemetery in the classic “right leg hospital, left leg cemetery” quote. Following his UFC 137 loss to Roy Nelson, Cro Cop ended his UFC career, and it’s doubtful that the defeat did anything to affect his tremendous worldwide fanbase.
UFC 137 Musings
The Past, Present, and Future of Mirko Cro Cop
KEY FIGHT – UFC 115 – Wsub3 Pat Barry
QUOTABLE – “In a certain way, fighting keeps me alive. And I’m aware that one day when I stop fighting, part of me, a big part of me, will die with that decision.”
Owner of an inspirational story that saw him rise from the depths of depression to make it to the UFC in 2010 after over a decade in the sport, Mike Guymon may not have made it to the top of the welterweight division in his four fight Octagon stint, but his ever present smile will never be forgotten by UFC fans as he always gave his all when the bell rang.
Guymon’s Journey Brings Him to Anaheim
KEY FIGHT – UFC 113 – W3 Yoshiyuki Yoshida
QUOTABLE – “I could care less about winning the title in the UFC; I just want to be there, be successful, and keep winning.”
Deaf, and with barely any MMA experience, Matt Hamill was the underdog of all underdogs to make it in the UFC. But after appearing on season three of The Ultimate Fighter, he did just that, going 9-4 over a five year period that saw him become a legitimate light heavyweight contender with wins over Tito Ortiz, Mark Munoz, Keith Jardine, and even a DQ victory over current 205-pound boss Jon Jones. But Hamill’s greatest impact was on the deaf community, as he inspired a host of people that if they work hard and believe, anything is possible.
Hamill Retires at 34
KEY FIGHT – UFC 121 – W3 Tito Ortiz
QUOTABLE – “Today is a sad day for me. After six years and 13 fights in the UFC I’m ready to hang up my gloves and retire from this amazing sport.”
4-4 in his three year UFC career, Antoni Hardonk always came to fight, and win or lose, the Dutch kickboxing ace gave fight fans exciting heavyweight battles on a consistent basis, whether with Pat Barry, Eddie Sanchez, or Colin Robinson. Now coaching the likes of Vladimir Matyushenko and Jared Hamman, expect to see plenty of Hardonk outside the Octagon in the coming years.
Hardonk Retires, Begins Next Chapter as Coach
KEY FIGHT – UFC 104 – TKO by 2 Pat Barry
QUOTABLE – “Fighting is a full-time job. It’s not something you can do on the side, and I didn’t want to do things halfway.”
It was a shocker when Brock Lesnar came to the UFC, it was shocking when he won the heavyweight title in just his fourth fight, and it was even more shocking when he returned from two bouts with diverticulitis. It’s a lot to fit into an eight fight career, but it also guaranteed that we’ll be talking about the big man from Alexandria, Minnesota for a long, long time.
Brock Lesnar, The UFC’s Shooting Star, Retires At 34
KEY FIGHT – UFC 116 – Wsub2 Shane Carwin
QUOTABLE – “There’s nobody out there like me. I was born to do this, and I’ll fight whoever they put in front of me. I’ve proven myself over and over again that this is my way of life.”
The sad part about the fight game is that it’s almost impossible to go out on top. Chris Lytle flipped that script in August when he announced that his fight with Dan Hardy would be his last one, and then he went on to defeat Hardy and pick up Submission and Fight of the Night bonuses in the process. It was a heartwarming ending for one of the game’s true good guys, and the capper on 12 years in the sport in which a fight to remember was always guaranteed.
Last Call For “Lights Out”
KEY FIGHT – UFC Live – Lytle Wsub3 Hardy
QUOTABLE – “I want to go out there and win the fight quickly. I’m not gonna go out there and say ‘I’m gonna take him down and grind this sucker out.’ I’ll never try and do that. I’d rather go out there and try to knock him out and get knocked out than try to grind it out.”
Though he said it was probably the last time he was going to appear in the Octagon following his UFC 137 loss to Nick Diaz, here's hoping that we see another run to the top from BJ Penn in 2012. And that might be the case considering that just days after his announcement post-Diaz, he issued the following statement on his website: “I want to thank all of the fans for their love and support. I’m going to take some time off to enjoy life, train and teach. I will keep you guys’ posted with what’s next."
But if this is the end for "The Prodigy," UFC.com's Frank Curreri paid tribute to the Hawaiian great following the bout with his piece, "BJ Penn - They Only Made One."