We are all familiar with the clichéd tale of the great champion who can’t walk away from the sport he loves.
While we admire the courage of these athletes, we wince every time we watch them climb inside the ring or the cage and take unnecessary punishment.
We know that they should have retired years ago, yet we can do nothing to stop them from putting themselves in harm’s way for one last shot at glory or a much-needed paycheque.
With that in mind, here is my list of the top seven fighters who really should call it quits.
This one was a tough call to make. The fact is that "Minotauro" Nogueira remains competitive in the UFC’s heavyweight division.
That being said, the former Pride heavyweight champion looks utterly shot—at least superficially.
Nogueira is a walking, talking optical illusion.He moves like an arthritic pensioner, yet he has accumulated enough experience to manage his physical limitations and beat up on the likes of Dave Herman, or even Frank Mir.
I’m willing to take a little heat for this one, but Nogueira has nothing more to prove. It’s time for him to walk away before he ceases to be competitive.
I suspect that the The Ultimate Fighter season one winner still has the ability to compete at a high level. However, Griffin appears to lack the motivation to do what is necessary to fight to his potential.
Perhaps more importantly, Griffin’s punch resistance continues to decline with every fight he takes.
The former UFC light heavyweight champion has had a terrific career. There is no reason for him to hang around and act as a gatekeeper.
One of the UFC’s earliest stars, Pedro Rizzo has been competing in mixed martial arts for over 15 years. His Muay Thai was amongst the best in the sport during the late '90s, taking him to the brink of the UFC heavyweight title.
As is usually the case, age and years of abuse eventually caught up with him. In truth, Rizzo should have retired years ago. Indeed, his inability to evolve with the sport is equally responsible for his current competitive irrelevance.
Despite being only 38 years old, it’s perhaps time for “The Rock” to dedicate his time to coaching younger fighters rather than exposing his body to further abuse.
Whether Matt Hughes belongs on this list is debatable because he appears to be on the brink of calling it a day. Still, he has left the door to his return slightly ajar.
We know that Hughes loves to compete, but it seems clear that his skills have deteriorated to the point where he can no longer hang with top-level competition. Indeed, his bout with Josh Koscheck proved difficult viewing.
Let’s hope Hughes errs on the side of safety and heeds his wife’s advice to retire.
Once the most dominant light heavyweight on the planet and arguably the top pound-for-pound fighter in the sport, Wanderlei Silva has enjoyed the kind of career—not to mention fan acclaim—that most mixed martial artists could only dream of.
Unfortunately, years of engaging in toe-to-toe wars have taken its toll on the “Axe Murderer’s” considerable skills. What’s left is a slower, less durable shadow of a once-great competitor.
Dana White has been particularly vocal in his calls for Wanderlei to hang up the gloves. Hopefully the likeable Brazilian will listen to his boss.
Talk about a long overdue retirement.
As I'm sure most will agree, Ken Shamrock ceased to be a force in the sport of mixed martial arts by the early '00s.
Although Shamrock held on for a few more huge paydays, “The World’s Most Dangerous Man” moniker could scarcely have been less apt by the time Tito Ortiz got his hands on the ageing legend.
The former UFC Superfight champion hasn’t competed since the end of 2010. However, he continues to seek employment from the slightly less scrupulous promoters of the MMA world.
The former “Gracie Hunter” is perhaps the most celebrated Japanese mixed martial artist in history.
His beautiful catch-wrestling style, combined with his love for pro wrestling-style pageantry, made him a fan favourite with almost all who witnessed him compete.
Sakuraba was at the peak of his powers at around the turn of the century, bagging wins over the likes of Royce Gracie, Renzo Gracie and “Rampage” Jackson.
His abilities arguably sharply declined after his second loss to Wanderlei Silva, with the losses beginning to pile up shortly thereafter.
Despite the almost total absence of success over the past several years, Sakuraba refuses to close the door on his mixed martial arts career.
We can only hope that he sticks to professional wrestling from now on rather than subject his body to yet more abuse from fighters who, all things being equal, wouldn't be fit to lace his boots.