An Outside Perspective
As fans of mixed martial arts, and really combat sports in general, we become personally engaged in particular fighters and their careers. Whether it be their personality, their fighting style, or both, we all have had times where we’ve grown “connected” to fighters and thought we knew what’s best for them as onlookers. Admittedly we are wrong a good amount of the time. But in certain situations, an outside viewpoint is what a fighter really needs.
A key example is when fighters stay in the sport for much longer than they should. Now I know it’s easy to say that through the eyes that are staring at this computer screen, but legacies become tainted by fighters who just won’t let go. Sure, we all remember their best days. But dragging your career trying to go out on top is hardly the right thing to do. Here are some some fighters who (in hindsight) should’ve probably called it a career sooner than they actually did…. If they did.
BJ Penn (16-14):
Alright let’s not act surprised about this one. We all knew it was coming, might as well get it out of the way first. BJ Penn was once one of the best fighters on the planet. He was just the second man to hold UFC titles in two different weight divisions (lightweight & welterweight) and has wins over great fighters such as Matt Hughes twice, Renzo Gracie, Jens Pulver, and even Diego Sanchez.
Sadly, even with all that he has accomplished in this sport, he is now known as the guy who wouldn’t/couldn’t let go. Penn finished his career losing his last 7 fights and only had 1 win in his final 11. Now hindsight is 20/20, I completely understand that, but he would 100% still be fighting in the UFC at 42 years old if Dana White didn’t make the decision to put his foot down and say no more fights for BJ Penn. Penn clearly didn’t want to end his career on a loss but at some point you’ve got to know it’s time. It’s definitely tough to do in any situation but when you’re literally putting your life on the line, it’s not something to play with and someone close to him should’ve stepped up and talked to him. It’s sad that it had to come from Dana.
Josh Koscheck (17-11):
Not as luxurious of a name as a BJ Penn, but still a career that ended terribly. Koscheck was once a promising prospect in the welterweight division and it was mostly due to his wrestling prowess. He started his career 9-1 before his first UFC loss to the legend George St. Pierre. Koscheck’s next 5 fights were up and down as he went 3-2 in that stretch before ultimately winning 3 straight to set himself up for a rematch with St. Pierre. Following that loss, Koscheck actually went on to defeat Matt Hughes and Mike Pierce before losing the last 6 fights of his career, the final one with Bellator. You know it’s time to hang it up when you leave for Bellator and get TKO’d in your debut….
Renan Barao (34-9):
Probably the best final record on this list but some may say a chunk of those wins are stat-padded. Barao started his career 23-1 before joining the WEC/UFC ranks, with his 1 loss being his very first fight. He went on to win the Interim UFC Bantamweight title vs Uriah Faber due to a Dominick Cruz injury. Barao would go on to become the first person to defend the Interim title multiple times against Michael McDonald and Eddie Wineland. However the unifying fight with Cruz would never end up happening as Dana White announced that they would strip Cruz of his title following a groin injury, making Barao the undisputed champ. Barao would then go on to successfully defend his title against Uriah Faber at UFC 169. Sadly, that would be the end of Barao’s MMA glory.
Following the fight with Faber, Barao took on a young, hungry TJ Dillashaw on short notice. That would prove detrimental as Dillashaw shocked the world and defeated Barao by TKO to become the new champion. Barao then defeated Mitch Gagnon and got his rematch with Dillashaw. Dillashaw would end up getting another TKO victory and Barao ended up losing 6 out of his next 7. Not the worst final record to retire with by any means, but with the *apparent* stat-padded fights prior to the WEC/UFC portion of his career and the abysmal final 8 fights for him, this is certainly a huge fall from grace. Barao signed a deal with Taura MMA back in the summer of 2020 and was scheduled to fight in November. Sadly, due to COVID-19 the bout never took place. Wishing him the best with that. Although, he should be careful not to further tarnish his legacy.
Chuck Liddell (21-9):
This one kind of pains me to do. Chuck Liddell was my favorite fighter growing up and I wish his career didn’t end the way it did. One slight difference with this entry is that Chuck was still looked at as a title contender at the end….. Until he wasn’t. Chuck Liddell’s run in MMA from 2000-2006 was absolutely phenomenal. He went 16-2 with his only losses coming from Randy Couture and Rampage Jackson (in Pride FC). That’s it. Other than that Chuck was tearing up the MMA world and helping grow the UFC to become the biggest brand in the game. Unfortunately, that all changed when Chuck and Rampage met up again in 2007.
Rampage won that matchup by TKO and Chuck was never the same. He went on to lose a split decision to Keith Jardine but followed it up with a win against Wanderlei Silva at UFC 79. Unfortunately, that would be the last win of Chuck Liddell’s legendary career. The Iceman fought for the UFC three more times and was KO’d or TKO’d in all three. The biggest tragedy to Chuck’s story came 8 years after his final UFC fight, though, when Liddell and Tito Ortiz fought in what was a clear money-grab. Ortiz finished Liddell in the first round and it was just sad to watch. There was no good reason for a near-50 year old Liddell to be fighting. Unless you count buttloads of money, that is. Fat bank account or not, Liddell is left with another loss to his name. Another stain on a once immaculate record.
Anderson Silva (34-11):
For our last entry on this list, we visit the career of “The Spider.” One of the greatest runs the fight game has ever seen and certainly one of the greatest fighters of all-time. When Silva first stepped into the octagon against Chris Leben in 2006, it was clear he was going to be a star. Silva started his UFC career going 16-0 and he looked basically unstoppable during that run. At least up until he met with Chris Weidman…. In their first fight, Weidman was able to catch Silva with a clean shot that put him away. That would be the beginning of the end for Silva’s UFC greatness.
Silva would go on to break his leg in the rematch with Weidman, get a no contest against Nick Diaz, then lose two more fights before getting his final win against Derek Brunson. Following the Brunson fight, Silva would lose 3 straight to end his career. That’s one single win in his last 9 fights. A sad end to a legendary career and it could’ve easily been avoided. Silva just can’t retire on the beach somewhere, the man just loves to fight. Now, Silva is doing boxing matches at the age of 46. Maybe one day he will actually give it up but it’s not looking like it’s going to be anytime soon.