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BJ Penn and 7 Fighters We Were Sad to See Retire from MMA

Nick CaronAnalyst IJanuary 1, 2017

BJ Penn and 7 Fighters We Were Sad to See Retire from MMA

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    In the short history of mixed martial arts, there are only a few fighters who can actually be classified as legends. BJ Penn, without question, is one of them.

    A former UFC lightweight and welterweight champion, Penn is one of only two fighters in the company’s history who has held titles in multiple weight classes. This amazing feat helps spotlight the incredible versatility and longevity that “The Prodigy” has displayed during his time in the sport.

    Unfortunately for fans, in his post-fight interview with Joe Rogan after his disappointing loss to Nick Diaz at UFC 138, Penn strongly indicated that it might be the last time we see him compete in the cage. We have seen Penn make vague references to retirement before, but it never felt anything like this.

    The emotion poured through the television screen as the dejected former champion shook Rogan’s hand, who praised him and thanked him for his accomplishments. If his retirement does stick, as many believe it will, it will be the latest in a string of sad retirements in this sport, still in its teenage years.

    Penn’s retirement is the latest, but these seven MMA legends also had also had heart-wrenching retirements for themselves and their fans.

Chuck Liddell

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    MMA Debut: 1998

    MMA Retirement: 2011

    Age at Retirement: 41

    Considered by many to be the greatest light heavyweight MMA fighter of all-time, Chuck Liddell had the kind of fall-from-grace that no one could’ve predicted.

    After completely dominating the UFC’s most competitive division for well over two years, Liddell finally tasted defeat at UFC 71 in a rematch with Quinton “Rampage” Jackson. Jackson, who had defeated Liddell by knockout nearly four years earlier, caught the UFC champion with a big punch less than two minutes into the bout, knocking “the Iceman” out in shocking fashion.

    Liddell would go on to lose a total of four of his final six fights by way of knockout, including the final one at UFC 115, when he was knocked out by Rich Franklin.

    An emotional Liddell finally retired at the UFC 125 press conference.

    “Most of all I want to thank my fans and my family,” he told fans. “I love this sport and I'm excited to go to this new stage in my life and keep promoting the best sport in the world, the sport I love...now that I'm retired.”

Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic

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    MMA Debut: 1998

    MMA Retirement: 2011

    Age at Retirement: 37

    Judging by what we have seen in recent years, it’s almost hard to believe that Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic was once considered to be not only the best striker in all of MMA, but perhaps the most dangerous overall fighter in the sport altogether.

    He never held the Pride or UFC heavyweight championships, but Cro Cop possesses wins over a who’s who in the sport, including Wanderlei Silva, Josh Barnett, Mark Coleman and Igor Vovchanchyn. His infamous head kicks are the stuff of MMA knockout reel history, and no fighter may ever replicate that kind of crushing knockout power in his feet.

    However, the former Pride 2006 Open Weight Grand Prix champion struggled when he made his move to the UFC, dropping six of his 10 fights in the Octagon, including a disappointing three-fight losing streak to end things.

    As has been rumored for BJ Penn, Cro Cop’s final fight took place at UFC 138 and ended in a knockout loss to Roy Nelson. 

Frank Shamrock

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    MMA Debut: 1994

    MMA Retirement: 2010

    Age at Retirement: 37

    Like a couple of other fighters on this list, Frank Shamrock had “retired” years before his more official retirement in 2009. After his impressive knockout victory over Tito Ortiz at UFC 22 in 1999, Shamrock announced his retirement from the sport because of a perceived lack of competition within the organization.

    He eventually returned to the sport more than a year later, this time overseas in Japan. He would never compete again in the UFC after a soured relationship caused permanent rifts between the two parties.

    Shamrock eventually retired for good (or so we think) at Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Werdum, over a year after his last fight against Nick Diaz, who knocked him out midway through the second round of their 179-pound catchweight bout. His time had come, but it was still sad to see one of the first true icons of the sport permanently retire.

Royce Gracie

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    MMA Debut: 1993

    MMA Retirement: No official retirement date

    Age at Retirement: 44 (current age)

    Some would credit Royce Gracie for revolutionizing the sport of mixed martial arts and changing its image from being little more than a glorified street brawl. During a day when most fighters got into the cage and were practically untrained, Gracie used true skill to overcome unprecedented size and strength disadvantages.

    But his dominance in the early days of the UFC opened the eyes of younger fighters who decided that they needed to follow in Gracie’s footsteps by learning real techniques. The difference is that while Gracie focused almost exclusively on his family’s technique of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, the young fighters decided to become skilled in multiple areas.

    This simple difference was very evident when, at UFC 60, he was completely outclassed by then-champion Matt Hughes who violently pummeled him in a first-round knockout.

    He has not officially announced his retirement, and there were even rumors that he might be fighting at UFC: Rio earlier this summer. If it didn’t happen then, it seems unlikely that we will ever see Royce Gracie back in the cage.

    Though Gracie did return to have one final “superfight” rematch with Kazushi Sakuraba in 2007, he has not yet made his return to fighting since. Not only that, but he failed a drug test in his final fight, testing positive for an anabolic steroid—certainly not what we would have expected from a Gracie.

Matt Hughes

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    MMA Debut: 1998

    MMA Retirement: 2011

    Age at Retirement: 37

    He hasn’t officially admitted it, but it very much appears that former UFC welterweight kingpin Matt Hughes is going to be hanging up the boots. This became a very likely scenario after he was knocked out by Josh Koscheck, who accepted a fight against him, on short notice, at UFC 135.

    Hughes was once considered to be the greatest welterweight of all time and is already a Hall of Famer in the UFC, but he has been knocked out in each of his last two fights and has not defeated a consensus Top-10 opponent since 2006. 

Bas Rutten

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    MMA Debut: 1993

    MMA Retirement: 1999 (and 2006)

    Age at Retirement: 34

    Beloved MMA legend Bas Rutten has one of the strongest followings in the history of the sport. Whether it's his unmatched intensity, trademark liver shots or hilarious commentary, Rutten will always be remembered as someone who helped pioneer the sport while also giving back to the sport by continuing to train fighters long after he had retired.

    Unlike many of the other fighters on this list, though, Rutten's retirement didn't come due to a lack of ability to compete at a high level anymore. In fact, he finished his career on a 22-fight unbeaten streak that may never have been broken if it wasn't for serious injuries he sustained while training.

    After winning the UFC heavyweight championship from Kevin Randleman at UFC 20, Rutten decided to vacate the title to move down and compete in the more competitive UFC middleweight (now known as light heavyweight) division in an effort to become the first multiple-division champion in the company's history. Unfortunately, he sustained multiple injuries to his knees, shoulder, biceps and neck, which forced him to retire because he could not recover from all of the injuries. 

    He did fight one final time in 2006, when he destroyed Ruben Villareal and won the fight via leg kicks in the first round at WFA: King of the Streets. The victory showed that even after more than seven years out of the sport, "El Guapo" still had it. 

    Many believe that had he not suffered the injuries that he did, that he would be widely regarded as one of, if not the greatest, mixed martial artists of all time. At 28-4-1 lifetime, it's hard to disagree if someone says he's at that level anyway.  

Randy Couture

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    MMA Debut: 1997

    MMA Retirement: 2011

    Age at Retirement: 47

    Joining BJ Penn as the only other multiple-division champion in UFC history, Randy Couture won the hearts of just about every MMA fan like no one else ever had before him. Never has a fighter been more unanimously loved by fans of all styles of fighting because of his constant desire to be the best even at an age when most athletes are busy eating themselves into obesity.

    Couture actually retired on three separate occasions. The first took place after a knockout loss to Chuck Liddell, the second during a contract dispute with the UFC and the third after his most recent loss this past April against Lyoto Machida. Presumably, “The Natural” has finally decided to walk away for good, but it’s hard to say with him.

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