UFC bantamweight Dominick Cruz
The news came down on Monday that Dominick Cruz, whom old-timers will remember as the UFC's first undisputed bantamweight champion, has abdicated his title after suffering a third consecutive catastrophic injury. All told, Cruz, 28, has been out of action for more than two years and has only fought twice in the UFC.
News also came on Monday that Tito Ortiz, formerly the UFC's longtime light heavyweight kingpin and currently Bellator's resident shiny object, was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence. Ortiz, 38, has now been out of action for a year-and-a-half, thanks in part to a neck injury that derailed his fight with Quinton Jackson and Bellator's first pay-per-view event in early November.
There are all sorts of reasons why the writing appears on the wall. But appear it does, for all of us—and most swiftly of all for athletes. Eventually, the time comes to retire, whether you or anyone else likes it or not.
Here are 10 MMA fighters who will hang it up on 2014, listed in no particular order.
More power to him, if it can be done safely. At a minimum, doctors say Silva will be sidelined at least six months after the horrific leg fracture he suffered against Chris Weidman at UFC 168.
Let's get the obvious one out of the way.
Fans know the litany by heart at this point. First, a torn ACL kept Dominick Cruz out of his highly anticipated rubber match with Urijah Faber in spring 2012.
Second, the surgery didn't entirely "take," if you'll excuse the jargon, and in late 2012, he was forced to undergo a second operation. That'll be another nine months.
Third was Monday's word that Cruz had torn his groin. This was apparently the last straw for the UFC, which stripped him of the title and pressed Faber into service on Feb. 1 at UFC 169 against Renan Barao, who is now the lineal champ.
Cruz is a fantastic fighter, and signs seem to point to a return. But it's easy to see how enough would be enough at this point, as he faces a third lengthy rehab. Especially when a promising full-time career as a TV analyst—which Cruz is already very good at doing—beckons, and especially now that the 28-year-old in the 50-year-old's lower body will have to start any climb back from somewhere much closer to the bottom.
OK, two obvious ones.
Hey, look, Tito: I know how it goes, baby. I have a Porsche Panamera, too. And no one else, and I mean no one else, gets to drive mine, either.
But when I'm going out for some cold ones, I take the Geo, and I let my driver take me home. It's simple logic, sir.
But instead of using logic, Ortiz got in a single-car wreck (thankfully no injuries) in Monday morning's wee hours. He was subsequently arrested on suspicion of DUI.
I'm not saying Ortiz will retire because of this one mistake. If we all retired after one mistake, Florida would be beating them back at the gate. But this is the public's latest peek into a turbulent personal life, a life that fans may know better than its current fighting equivalent.
Ortiz unretired in July. The cynics said he did it for the money. I don't see a lot of money coming in, but I do see a family man with a life in need of some attention. Recovering from a neck fracture and as nothing more than an MMA novelty, Ortiz needs to see that it's time to rediscover that sunset.
Sorry, last obvious one.
And it doesn't get much more obvious than "Ace." Rich Franklin has already said his next fight will be his last. Given that he's going on 40 and has spent years now on the novelty circuit, the move makes sense. He's still waiting for the UFC to name that final opponent.
No one said these all had to be UFC guys.
Travis Wiuff does have the UFC on his resume, along with just about every other MMA promotion ever created. Support swelled for the journeyman last summer when he reached the finals of the Bellator light heavyweight tournament.
But as has been the case for most of his 12-year career, the wave broke before it hit the sand. He lost by first-round knockout and has since lost four straight, three by aforementioned first-round KO. And those KOs not only occurred in the first round, they took an average of just 21.3 seconds.
So the guy's chin is gone. He'll be 36 next year, and he's fought nearly 90 times. They wrote this on the wall in big, thick Sharpie, and there's no Magic Erasing it out.
Frank Mir is one of the best heavyweights in UFC history. No question about it.
He's also one of its most uneven. Confidence (or lack thereof) always seemed to play a big factor for him; when he didn't have an edge between the ears, he didn't have one anywhere else, either.
His fight with the equally talented but shaky Alistair Overeem at UFC 169 has the air of a loser-leaves-town bout, despite the high profile that both men bring to the matchup. Mir has lost three straight, two of them by TKO, so this could be Overeem's for the taking. If Mir does come up short, I expect him to hang up the gloves before fighting again and, like Cruz, pursue a cushier life in the broadcast booth.
A drop to featherweight may be the last best chance for BJ Penn. Winless in five of his past six in a stretch going back three years, Penn needed a shakeup, and a shakeup he received when he moved to the Nova Uniao camp to train with lighter champs Jose Aldo and Renan Barao.
Of course, we've heard this before with him. The work ethic is really back this time. A new camp has really lit a fire under him. This time it's different. This time he's motivated. This is the best Penn we've seen in years.
And then he loses.
Will the song remain the same against Frankie Edgar? Methinks it will, and methinks it will be the end of a Hall of Fame career.
Karo Parisyan fans have seen fire, and they've seen rain. They've seen sunny days they thought would never end.
But now it might be the end of one of the sport's most troubled careers. The scintillating fights, the huge wins, the ridiculous losses, the multiple drug suspensions, the emotional issues and the endless rinse-and-repeat comebacks from this and that and the other.
A surprise addition to April's Bellator 95 card felt a lot like a last gasp. Parisyan lost to Rick Hawn by first-round knockout.
He has reached the end of the line. And he's exhibit double-Z that MMA careers don't usually have storybook endings.
Chris Leben drew solemn applause at UFC 168 when he threw in his own metaphorical towel after a one-round beatdown against Uriah Hall.
If you're a normal person, quitting can be construed as a sign of cowardice. But in Leben's case, it was a badge of courage. He knew how such an act could and would be viewed in some quarters, but he put his own safety first and did it anyway.
It was a sad moment, made sadder because it had a feel of too little, too late for the middleweight brawler. But he could salvage what's left of his aging-in-dog-years head and body by walking away. Not every fighter has the financial security to make such a decision without regard for monetary implications.
Here's guessing fan favorite Leben can, and here's guessing he will. It would be a great gesture of right-thing-doing to bookend that smart act of discretion in the cage.
The 37-year-old Brazilian legend may be the only UFC fighter who is more shopworn than Leben. But unlike Leben, Wanderlei Silva appears to have lost any semblance of a self-awareness or self-preservation instinct years ago.
He'll find it again in 2014. The bout with Chael Sonnen (assuming it goes off) will be an embarrassment to Silva in front of his countrymen. He might fight once more during the year, but that's it. This is the year he finally realizes he's squeezing blood from a stone.
Rosi Sexton does not need this stuff.
Really. The 36-year-old British osteopath and Ph.D. caught a royal beatdown in her last bout, which ran her to 0-2 in the UFC's bantamweight division, where she is not only older than the average competitor but quite undersized.
A pioneer in women's MMA, she could walk away now with a 13-4 record, a taste of the UFC bright lights she helped make possible and a relatively intact brain and career outside of fighting.
Sometimes, these decisions are not rocket science.
Scott Harris is a writer for Bleacher Report MMA. Follow him on Twitter if you feel so inclined.