5 Current MMA Fighters Who Got Better After the Age of 30
Father Time hates MMA fighters.
He hates almost all athletes, really (except NFL kickers), but he's especially unkind to the select few who choose to fashion their careers inside a steel cage.
In basketball, when a player ages and slows down, he starts missing routine layups. He starts getting burned on defense. He can't finish that breakaway dunk with the same pizzazz.
He turns into 2014 NBA Finals Dwyane Wade.
In MMA, however, an aging fighter's shortcomings become painfully obvious once the door locks and the referee claps his hands.
The result is not an embarrassing, shrug-it-off-and-chuckle missed field goal; it's unconsciousness. It's humiliation. It's frantic taps for help.
For the vast majority of fighters, age slows them down and beats them into retirement. It's not pretty or glamorous.
That's the fight game.
Other fighters, however, flip Father Time the bird and tell him to stay away for now. There's work to be done, and, at 30 years old (and up), they're just hitting their stride.
To honor those who defeated Mr. Time and put on their best performances after the age of 30, I present the following slideshow.
Click on to see who kicks off the list.
5. Ronaldo 'Jacare' Souza
Current Age: 34
Current Record: 20-3 (1)
Record After 30: 10-1
Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza stormed the beaches of MMA in 2003 as a 23-year-old Brazilian jiu-jitsu standout destined for greatness.
He was a multiyear and multidivisional medalist at the World Jiu-Jitsu Championship in Rio de Janeiro, and he looked every bit the part of a future champion in the sport.
Until he got knocked out in three minutes in his professional debut.
From there, things got better, but Souza still experienced some hiccups along the road to stardom. He'd post a 10-2 (1) record before landing in Strikeforce. Coincidentally, he turned 30 less than two weeks before his Strikeforce debut, and he celebrated his birthday in fashion, submitting Matt Lindland in the first round of their "Strikeforce: Evolution" bout.
Since that time, Souza hit his stride in Strikeforce and in the UFC, going 10-1 and notching wins over big names such as Yushin Okami, Robbie Lawler and Tim Kennedy. After turning 30, he won consistently, and he did so over better talent than he had faced in his career to that point.
That considered, there's no doubt that Father Time has been unusually caring toward Mr. Souza.
4. Matt Brown
Record After 30: 8-1
Before turning 30, Matt Brown was 11-10 in professional action. Now, he's 19-11 and fighting in the main event at UFC on Fox 12 on July 26 for the No. 1 contender's spot inside the welterweight division.
The Immortal might not be a nickname so much as an accurate descriptor, after all.
Brown struggled to piece together wins prior to the age of 30, and he consistently fell victim to his opponents' submission games, tapping out in eight of his 10 losses.
But then he listened to his The Ultimate Fighter coach, Forrest Griffin, and turned a corner in his career.
He unleashed the animal.
With over three decades of life behind him, Brown has emerged as one of the UFC welterweight division's hottest stars, putting together a seven-fight winning streak with six finishes that has him knocking on champion Johny Hendricks' door.
Brown's career resurgence is remarkable by any standards, but it becomes even more impressive when one considers it happened after the age of 30.
3. Anderson Silva
Record After 30: 19-3
Anderson "The Spider" Silva is arguably the greatest mixed martial artist of all time.
He owns UFC records for most consecutive title defenses (10), longest title reign (almost seven years), most finishes in the UFC (14) and many others.
And he did all of this after the age of 30.
The Spider turned 30 after a flying scissor heel hook defeat to Ryo Chonan at Pride Shockwave 2004 and he would not really lose for another eight years, a stretch that encompassed 20 fights.
I italicize "really" in the previous sentence because Silva technically lost to Yushin Okami in January 2006, but the defeat was the result of an illegal kick delivered by Silva to a grounded Okami that halted the bout.
Setting that fight aside, we're looking at a post-30 run that will probably never be matched in the history of the sport. At the point in their careers when most fighters start to wear down and showcase their flaws, Silva got better, stronger, faster and sharper with each consecutive outing after turning the big three-oh.
It must be said, however, that, at 38, Silva lost twice to Chris Weidman. First, he was knocked out at UFC 162, releasing his clutch on the UFC title in the process. Then, he broke his leg while throwing a leg kick at Weidman during their UFC 168 rematch.
Have we finally seen Father Time corner The Spider and give him the shoe, or does the legendary Brazilian still have more to offer?
Regardless of which scenario proves true moving forward, Silva's run from 30 to 38 remains one of the most outstanding feats in MMA history.
2. Chris Weidman
Record After 30: 1-0
Go ahead. March off to the comments section. I'll wait.
Chris "The All-American" Weidman boasts a spotless record with 11 of his 12 victories coming before turning 30 on June 17.
So how does he make the list?
I'm predicting greatness in this case, friends. This slide is meant for a little fun, for a little bold speculation.
Weidman is only getting better. The best is yet to come.
With a stacked middleweight division in front of him and the scalps of fighters such as Lyoto Machida, Anderson Silva, Mark Munoz and Demian Maia already upon his mantle, Weidman is catapulting toward legendary status.
Despite being 30 years old, Weidman is still young to the sport. He's fought professionally for just five years, and his evolution under the tutelage of Ray Longo and Matt Serra has been exceptional to this point. Every time out, we see something new from the middleweight champion.
Against Silva, Weidman showed smarter striking defense and more effective clinch work in their rematch at UFC 168, and he followed this performance with a masterpiece against Machida at UFC 175, where he showcased his grit, determination and coachability.
He stuck to the game plan, and it worked.
There's no reason to think his run ends here. There's no reason to think it doesn't get better from here.
The New York native is a freak inside the cage, and time can't stop him. Not yet, at least.
1. Robbie Lawler
Record: 23-10 (1)
Record After 30: 4-2
"Ruthless" Robbie Lawler took his first professional MMA bout at the age of 18.
He won his first three UFC fights at the age of 20.
There was no way this guy could sustain that level of excellence to the age of 30 and beyond, and he didn't.
Following his sensational 7-0 start, Lawler went 1-3 in his next four and got cut from the UFC before bouncing around promotions and posting a pedestrian 11-5 (1) record prior to his 30th birthday.
Beginning at the age of 27, when he made his Strikeforce debut, Lawler started to gurgle violently beneath the grip of Father Time.
In his Stirkeforce career, Lawler went 3-5 with all of the wins and four of the losses coming before 30.
He didn't look like a UFC-caliber fighter. He didn't look like somebody who could hang at an elite level for much longer.
He was getting old, and he was missing bunnies inside the paint.
However, after Strikeforce officially turned over its fighters to the UFC in 2013, Lawler changed. Instead of continuing to decline with age, he got smarter, more calculated and more devastating inside the cage.
He could still brawl with the best of them, but he developed a confidence and bravado that he hadn't flashed since the beastly kid from Iowa rattled off seven straight wins to kick-start his career.
After turning 30, Lawler contended for the UFC welterweight title, narrowly losing a decision to Johny Hendricks, and, after a UFC 173 victory over Jake Ellenberger, he's right back in a No. 1 contender's bout against Matt Brown.
Ruthless cares not for your games, Father Time. He has work to do, and business is booming.
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