It’s never easy to tell someone to hang up the gloves, and in the end it’s always a personal decision. That said, there are always a number of candidates for fighters who probably should — with that in mind, here’s a look at the UFC heavyweight division.
The retirement question is a touchy one in mixed martial arts. Many factors need to be taken into account when attempting to answer it, and perhaps it can’t be answered as long as a fighter is cleared to compete by one of the inept athletic commissions we’ve come to admire. Punishment taken over the course of a career, financial incentives, age, title aspirations, and CTE are all things fighters should ponder as they give themselves the Joe Rogan Talk. Is a little brain damage worth another paycheck? It’s conceivable. Not smart — but conceivable.
No one can say for sure when it’s time for a mixed martial artist to hang up the gloves, but when losses start to add up inside the octagon and a UFC Championship is out of reach – it’s time to at least consider hanging up the gloves.
Some of these fighters could be paraded out for years to come as part of a young UFC lion/lioness’ next meal, or allowed to headline television cards as gatekeepers until their health diminishes to the point of early dementia. But which UFC Heavyweights should leave the sport now that the time is right
before they die in the cage?
Andrei Arlovski (27-16, 1 NC)
Notable Wins: Tim Sylvia, Ben Rothwell, Roy Nelson, Brendan Schaub, Antonio Silva, Travis Browne, Frank Mir, Stefan Struve
Andrei Arlovski is a former UFC Heavyweight Champion that left the Ultimate Fighting Championship on a win streak in 2008 before being knocked out three times and suffering four straight losses to Fedor Emelianenko, Brett ‘I beat women and should be publicly shamed for the rest of my life’ Rogers, Antonio Silva, and Sergei Kharitonov. It seemed improbable at that point that Arlovski would ever step foot inside the octagon again, but that’s exactly what happened just a few years later.
In 2014 Arlovski would make a miraculous UFC return as he rattled off four straight wins of his own against Brendan Schaub, Antonio Silva, Travis Browne, and Frank Mir.
Andrei’s return to the UFC was incredible and watching him turn back the clock for a short while was fun – but his success really didn’t last long. Title aspirations waned after a TKO loss to Stipe Miocic back at UFC 173 in 2013 and things never really got better from there as Arlovski lost 6 of his last 8 fights.
Arlovski has taken a tremendous amount of punishment in his career and at this point I’d like to believe he only fights for his guaranteed $270,000+ paychecks. His position as a gatekeeper is cemented as long as ‘The Pitbull’ would like to compete, but his days as a UFC Title contender are over as he’s lost to four fighters in the top ten, not including Stipe Miocic.
Arlovski will turn 40 next February, but he’s endured 44 professional bouts in his career and he has nothing left to prove at this point. Everybody knows he can still compete with the right top 15-25 heavyweights, but should he?
Mark Hunt (13-12-1, 1 NC)
Notable Wins: Wanderlei Silva, Mirko Cro Cop, Ben Rothwell, Stefan Struve, Cheick Kongo, Roy Nelson, Antonio Silva, Frank Mir, Derrick Lewis
Mark Hunt has always been around a .500 fighter in MMA, but he’s finished so many people and waltzed off immediately after that Hunt’s been dubbed ‘King of the Walk off KO.’
There’s nobody in the UFC that Mark Hunt couldn’t finish if he caught them square in the chin and the ‘Super Samoan’ is known for walking through ridiculous amounts of punishment while maintaining his composure, but he’s appeared extra sluggish recently and since 2013 Hunt’s been knocked out four times:
— The Black Viking (@808LK) March 5, 2017
Hunt has said publicly that he’d like to finish out his remaining UFC contract (2 fights remaining) and then fight three times globally before retiring.
That’s probably the best move he can make at this point in his career unless he can secure a title shot with the remaining two fights on his contract – which is very unlikely both because of Hunt’s recent performances inside the cage and because of his lawsuits with the UFC. Mark Hunt turns 44 next March and commands a very large paycheck each time he fights. The UFC would likely not offer another lucrative contract after his current deal expires given his status with the company.
We are down to just two Mark Hunt classics in the UFC.
Travis Browne-Rousey (18-7-1)
Notable Wins: Stefan Struve, Gabriel Gonzaga, Alistair Overeem, Josh Barnett, Brendan Schaub, Matt Mitrione
Travis Browne had some of the most incredible highlight reel knockouts in UFC history and then one day his fight skills went rogue. Perhaps it was his just a matter of MMA math, or maybe he partnered with the wrong trainers/coaches. Either way, he doesn’t have ‘it’ anymore.
Browne hasn’t competed since he lost to Oleksiy Oliynyk via rear-naked choke at UFC 213 last July and it doesn’t appear we’ll see him step inside the octagon again, though he’s still in the USADA testing pool. Prior to UFC 213 Browne lost to Derrick Lewis via KO, Fabricio Werdum via decision, Cain Velasquez by knockout, cheated against Matt Mitrione by gouging his eye, and got obliterated by Andrei Arlovski at UFC 187.
Let’s not forget though, Browne was once a promising prospect that routinely finished off legends of the sport with vicious knockouts:
Alistair Overeem (43-17, 1 NC)
Notable Wins: Vitor Belfort (x2), Sergei Kharitonov, Mark Hunt, Fabricio Werdum (x2), Brock Lesnar, Frank Mir, Stefan Struve, Roy Nelson, Junior dos Santos, Andrei Arlovski
Alistair Overeem dominated the sport of MMA for well over a decade and defeated some of the best fighters to ever live. He captured the Strikeforce Heavyweight Championship and Dream Heavyweight Championship along the way, but towards the end of his career the glass jaw that ended his PRIDE run seems to once again be an issue.
In his last outing at UFC 225, Overeem was demolished on the ground by Curtis Blaydes’ elbows and before that he suffered the most devastating knockout in UFC history at the hands of Francis Ngannou at UFC 218.
Alistair Overeem will continue to be booked as long as he wants to fight, but his days as a title contender are likely through unless he avoids grapplers with power or Brock Lesnar somehow ends up with the UFC Championship again.