October 12, 2016

UFC 204: Dan Henderson's Retirement Has Fans Eyeing Gracious Exits For Others

By Raphael Garcia

The mixed martial arts world experienced a special moment at UFC 204. Although Dan Henderson was unable to wrest the middleweight title away from Michael Bisping in his final appearance in the Octagon, his effort received appreciation and praise from the fans in attendance. However, there were two other individuals who fought on the same card that are at similar crossroads in their careers: Vitor Belfort and Brad Pickett. On the heels of their latest defeats, it’s worth discussing if and when it’s OK to tell fighters that it’s time to walk away from what they’ve done for years.

Dan Henderson finished his career like a warrior. Dropping a unanimous decision in a fight where he hurt Bisping badly and dropped him twice may not have been the storybook ending he and others might have wanted, but it was still a final fight worthy of the man known as “Hendo.”

“Unfortunately that was the last one,” Henderson said after the battle. “It will have to be an ‘L’ on my record. I left it all in there and I felt like I did enough to win. Unfortunately everybody didn’t see it that way. Before this fight I felt like I accomplished enough in this sport and was satisfied with that. Obviously there was one more thing I wanted to do...I’m a little frustrated feeling like I did get it done and didn’t get credit for it, I guess. It is what is it’s and there’s no changing it. I’ve just got to live with it.”

But Henderson wasn’t the only veteran fighter to taste defeat. Earlier that night Belfort and Pickett stepped into the cage and were soundly defeated by Gegard Mousasi and Iuri Alcantara, respectively. The response from fans immediately after the event ended was that both men should join Henderson and step away from active competition. Belfort has been stopped in three of his last four fights, while Picket has struggled since 2012. But MMA fans shouldn’t be surprised if both these men find their way back into a cage at some point; the unfortunate reality is that fighters tend not to walk away when the time is best.

Neither Belfort nor Pickett has made any comment regarding retirement, but the conversation has still been happening without them. When both were defeated at UFC 204, many media members, fans, and other experts spoke openly on social media that it’s time for them to walk away from the sport. However, very few men have gone out the way Georges St. Pierre did after UFC 167. And if rumors are to be believed, St. Pierre might be returning soon.

While MMA fans and media celebrated the departure of Dan Henderson at UFC 204, these same individuals are hoping to convince Vitor Belfort and Brad Pickett to make the same decision. Although very few people feel like they have the right to tell a professional fighter when it’s time to walk away, there may come a point in which circumstances decide for them. Whether by injury or by the UFC refusing to offer them fights, Belfort and Pickett might not be afforded the opportunity to go out like Hendo did, on his own terms with his head held high. And if not, that’ll just be sad.

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