After sixteen years, several belts, and one faux retirement, Frank Shamrock announced his official retirement from MMA in June. His announcement comes at an interesting time in the sports history: the old guard, dominated by men like Shamrock, his adopted brother Ken, Randy Couture, and the Gracie family, is on its way out. At thirty seven years old, Shamrock was certainly not the oldest fighter in the game, but he was definitely a Titan from a former age. Fighters just coming into their prime and young upstarts are starting to displace the older Gods of the sport, and more strenuous and advanced training techniques (as evidenced by the likes of Georges St. Pierre) are causing the whole nature of MMA to evolve in front of our eyes.
Unfortunately, one of the immutable facts of evolution is either change with the times or become extinct. This is the choice many of the old guard of MMA face today.
For a career fighter, retirement is no easy thing to consider. There are a myriad of thoughts that run through the fighter’s mind before making the decision: age, health, financial sustainability, fan base sustainability, and ability to compete with younger, stronger competition in a meaningful way are all elements that go into the decision. One thing that many weigh heavily is what their post-career career is going to look like. If you want to continue in the business as a high profile personality, such as an announcer, endorser, owner of MMA gyms, or start your own competition, you need to leave at the top of your game. That is a tough call for many who have learned to literally not walk away from a challenge: can you leave the game when you are at the top, really?
Probably not. But many have realized that if they want to stay viable in the industry they need to leave before their star falls too low. Arguably, Chuck Liddell came dangerously close to this point in his last fight against Rich Franklin in June. After suggesting retirement in 2009, Liddell jumped back into the octagon again for a series of three epic losses, notably some of the hardest fights of his career. He trained incredibly hard, and put his all into his fights. His performance against Franklin showed that it might be best if he chose to retire, and with pressure from the likes of industry pros like Dana White he has thrown the idea of retirement around.
So with Shamrock leading the passing of the old guard, the question on everyone’s minds is “Who’s next?” There has been some talk of Anderson “The Spider” Silva retiring after his last few fights. Rich Franklin seemed to be on his way out but now, after his win over Liddell, is roaring back to life. My money is on Tito Ortiz: personal problems, a temper, and physical problems seem to be ushering him into a lifestyle of commentator, endorser, and sport personality. But who knows – if there is one thing MMA proves time and time again is that you don’t know what’s coming next, in or out of the ring!
Who do you think is next big name to retire in the MMA?
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