March 1, 2018

UFC 222: Mike Pyle's MMA Journey Reaches the End of Its Road

By Adam Martin

Earlier this week, UFC welterweight Mike Pyle announced he will retire from MMA following his fight this weekend at UFC 222 against Zak Ottow. The card takes place in Pyle's adopted hometown of Las Vegas, Nevada, and serves as the bookend to a respectable journeyman career that saw him compete for nearly 20 years in one of the toughest sports on the planet.

If you look at Pyle's Sherdog record, you'll see his career began back in 1999, though Pyle admitted on The MMA Hour this week that his first fight was actually in 1997, when he was in his early twenties. But officially, his first professional fight came against Quinton "Rampage" Jackson at a small show in Tennessee, when Pyle took a fight with "Rampage" on short notice, giving up 30 lbs in that bout, but managing to fight to a spirited decision in a loss. That fight represents what Pyle has stood for his entire career: as a tough guy who would fight anyone put in front of him.

Now 42 years of age, Pyle's longevity in the sport has been incredible. When he was 25 he was already fighting for notable promotions such as M-1 and Shooto back in the dark days of MMA. Then he fought in Oregon's SportFight, and then in WEC, and then in the infamous International Fight League. It was in the IFL that Pyle started to really make a name for himself, and it earned him bigger fights in Strikeforce and Elite XC. Eventually that led Pyle to Affliction and Sengoku, and then to the UFC soon after, when he filled in against Brock Larson on short notice at UFC 98. Since that fight in 2009, Pyle has gone 10-8 in his UFC career, and was a solid gatekeeper at 170 for years. Though he's been knocked out far too often, he's also finished seven opponents in the Octagon, and has had some extremely exciting finishes, with his faceplant KO win over Josh Neer being perhaps the most memorable victory of his UFC career.

That's the ultimate journeyman career when you think about it, considering Pyle's record and the fact that he's fought for so many different promotions. Though he never achieved championship fame, Pyle fought some of the best fighters in the world at 170 lbs for nearly a decade in the UFC, and at 42 he's still out there putting his body and his brain on the line. As one of the oldest fighters in the sport, it's for the best that Pyle is calling it quits, as the fact that he's been knocked out in his last two fights and four times in his last seven is scary to think about. But overall Pyle has nothing to be ashamed of, and he should be commended for having a long UFC career with a winning record to boot.

Ultimately, the sport will miss Pyle, as he's been low-key one of the most exciting 170-pounders in the world for years. He was the perfect gatekeeper to test where top prospects like Rory MacDonald and Jordan Mein stacked up, while shutting down pretenders like John Hathaway, and upsetting solid vets like Rick Story along the way. Saying Pyle has had a great career might be a stretch, as he himself admitted in his interview on The MMA Hour that he ultimately accepts the fact that he wasn't good enough to climb the ladder, but he's definitely had a respectable career. The sport needs gatekeepers like Pyle to do their thing, and once he's gone, the sport will miss one of truest journeymen ever. What a fun fighter to watch over the years, and good luck in retirement.

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