Knowing When It’s TIME…to retire.

In which Chris talks about when it’s time to hang up the gloves with good grace.

On Saturday, Forrest Griffin – the original Ultimate Fighter and one of the UFC’s biggest stars over the last decade, hung up his gloves at the post fight press conference for UFC 160.

He said that aside from constantly withdrawing from fights due to injury, he watched this years probably fight-of-the-year-so-far-between Wanderlei Silva and Brian Stann, and thought ‘If Idont have one of them in me anymore, then what’s the point.’

Forrest retires while still in demand, still beloved and actually coming off a win in his last fight (against Tito Ortiz.) That’s how your meant to do it, leave the fans wanting more.

However, elsewhere this weekend, a fighter who’s legend is far older than Forrest’s fought and lost on a regional show in Russia. Almost no-one cared, yet he already had another fight booked for August. The contrast in these fighter’s mind sets is startling.

Once upon a time, Bob Sapp was one of the most compelling characters in combat sports. An initially successful career in both MMA and kickboxing which included wins over the legendary Ernesto Hoost and a host of overmatched, smaller men alongside gutsy losses to genuine legends like Ray Sefo, Remy Bojansky & Mirko Filipovic (in kickboxing), Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Kazuyuki Fujita (in MMA) was bolstered (in box office terms) by a hugely popular run as a headliner in Japanese pro wrestling.

However, it all started to go a bit wrong. In September 2005 he lost a K-1 bout to Choi Mon-Hang to go 10-5 in the sport. Since then, he’s recorded a record of 1-11 in that discipline.

His MMA career held on for a bit, with a first round submission loss to the much smaller Ikuhisa Minowa dropping him to a respectable 10-4-1 in MMA. Since then, he’s posted a 1-13 record.

Now, I have massive respect for anyone who steps in the cage to compete and would never take the rise out of any fighter experiencing bad form. Indeed, martial arts is all about persevering through adversity and a willingness to get up and try again after yet another galling loss is usually creditable.

It’s the MANNER of his defeats that bug me.

Since 2005, he’s had 8 first round TKO stoppages in kickboxing and in the same period he’s had fourteen first round stoppage losses in MMA.

That’s pretty tragic. What’s worst is that it’s not as if he’s being KO’d by bombs or coming out swinging and getting caught. He’s simply falling over with the first shot that hits him, or tapping to the first thing that resembles a submission hold. Hell, since 2008 he’s tapped to strikes four times, and once tapped to a TAKEDOWN.

Sapp has become almost the inverse of the fighters who complain about wages, saying they can’t pay for the training to stay competitive. Sapp doesn’t care a bit about being competitive.

Relying on star power earned a decade ago, he takes bookings for fights, turns up, talks some smack, remembers to keep himself looking impressively large and muscular (or is that fat?) steps in and takes a dive.

He pretty much admitted it on Ariel Helwani’s MMA hour a while ago. Sapp usually has two or three matches lined up and he said he’s not going to risk his fitness for those bookings by taking damage in his current fight.

That’s not MMA, it’s one guy working like a (very very bad) pro wrestler, taking a big pay heck to add star power to a card before taking a dive to the local hero.

It makes a mockery of the sport. It makes a mockery of all the fighters who train for months, then risk their health, give their sweat and blood for the chance of victory, for pay checks which are dwarfed by Sapp’s, earned for a hackneyed act at weigh ins and a minute or so of tentative action, before losing in the most expeditious fashion possible.

This weekend, his lost to Aleksandr Emelianenko, which is nothing to be ashamed of, indeed it was the sixteenth 1st round stoppage win of Aleks’ career. However, it’s one of the least meaningful, as I would have put the house on exactly that result, because Sapp is a joke these days.

Please, can promoters stop booking this man and fans stop buying tickets for cards he’s featured on. Sure, he truly was ‘the Beast’ for a while back in PRIDE and K-1, but now he’s an opportunist parasite on MMA.

Some might say he adds attention to cards which would never receive them otherwise and in truth, that’s right because I wouldn’t be writing about this weekend’s Legend show in Moscow at all otherwise.

However, we talk about Sapp and he adds a bit of a freak show box office to the card, but does it really help the promotion or the fighters down the card, when we think about how much Sapp probably gets paid and how he sucks all the attention away.

Bob Sapp belongs on the indie pro wrestling circuit. Drawing folks with his name, pantomiming a tepid fight (which he might get to win) and getting paid. Sure, he’ll probably have to sell and sign a whole lot of photographs in the process, but he’s not going to tap to a Parker pen, is he?

He has no place in a credible MMA ring at this point. Unlike Forrest, who I would still pay money to see.

One hangs onto and exploits a fair legacy for (surely) ever decreasing pay days, while making a joke out of himself and the sport as well.

The other looks at himself, realises he can’t reliably make his promotional commitments and doubts he’d be able to produce another one of ‘those’ fights, and chooses to walk away.

I know which guy I’d rather be…


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