The UFC lost one of its most outstanding people today when middleweight Brian Stann announced on “The MMA Hour” that he was walking away from the sport of mixed martial arts after a seven-year run as a professional fighter. According to the former U.S. Marine, he retired because “the risk is not worth it” to continue his career as a professional cage fighter when he has a young family at home that is counting on him to remain healthy and productive for years to come. Stann, who is 32 years old, leaves the sport with a 12-6 record, including a 6-5 mark in the UFC. The former WEC middleweight champion, a title he won when he defeated Doug Marshall at WEC 33, Stann was known for his aggressive and exciting fighting style, a style that won him three “Fight of the Night” awards during his time in the Octagon. His last fight, which took place against Wanderlei Silva at this past February’s UFC on FUEL TV 9 event, defines his career and his style as a “kill or be killed” fighter as the bout was one of the best of the year due to its non-stop action and heart-pulsing back-and-forth exchanges. Unfortunately for Stann, though, he was on the receiving end of a brutal TKO by Silva in the bout, the second knockout loss of his career. Stann realized that his brain was at risk, and instead of “rolling the dice,” as he said, by continuing to fight, he instead decided to hang up the four-ounce gloves and take a job doing color commentary for college football on the new FOX Sports 1 network. I applaud Stann for knowing when to walk away from the sport while he still has his wits about him. I hope that Stann retiring from MMA at only 32 years of age encourages other fighters of his ilk to also hang it up. Guys like the aforementioned Silva, Chris Leben, Rich Franklin, and Mike Swick are just some of the fighters who have been fighting in this sport for so long and who have been getting knocked unconscious in their recent fights and who may be best suited to calling it quits to save their bodies and brains from further punishment. Now, obviously some of these fighters don’t have the career options that Stann has if they left, as “The All American” already has a career in television that he can fall back on. For others, these options don’t exist and that’s why they continue to fight, even if — especially in the case of Leben — everyone knows it’s not in their best interest to compete anymore. Fighters are fighters and they live to fight, and they know going into choosing mixed martial arts as their career that they are going to be risking their health and safety. But sometimes our warriors are too tough for their own good, and they stay longer in the sport than they should. For many, they don’t want to ever hear the dreaded “R” word, and they definitely don’t want some armchair critic on the internet like myself telling them it’s time to go. But the truth is for many of these guys in their mid 30s, guys that all of us consider heroes, it’s just not worth it anymore. And that’s why I hope they can look at what Stann did today and realize that, at some point, fighting just isn’t worth the risk anymore, and that if they want to live the rest of their lives without the brutal after effects of being a prize fighter, maybe it’s better to just go while they still can on their own volition and worry about their next career later.
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