Over this past weekend, we saw two veterans of the MMA world go up against relative newbies under the respective UFC banner. Ovince St. Preux and Luke Rockhold had competed in just five and three UFC bouts before their big matches. Ovince St. Preux went up against the PRIDE legend and former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua, while Rockhold went up against 22 fight veteran Michael Bisping.
Both Bisping and Rua ended up losing their fights, Bisping via submission and Rua via TKO. Does this signify that fighting is a young mans’ game, or could their still be gas in their veritable tanks? As hard as it might be to believe, Bisping is three years older than Rua, and at 35 his hopes of a title fight may be all but over after another disparaging loss. If we just rewind seven years to when both fighters were in their 20s, Bisping was cruising through the Light Heavyweight division and had only suffered one close loss to a certain Rashad Evans in his entire career. Rua meanwhile was just entering the UFC, and even though he lost a fight to Forrest Griffin on his debut, he still stood at 16-3. Move forward to today and both fighters have most certainly lost their way.
The thing is, no matter where Bisping or Shogun go, they will be outgunned at this point in their career. Bisping is a big middleweight and would find it hard cutting to 170, whereas Shogun has been called to move down in weight class. Shogun would be the more likely, but is there a point? If he drops down, is he going to somehow find himself surging up the rankings? No. Shogun just would not be able to take the likes of Rockhold, Kennedy, Munoz, and definitely not Chris Weidman. The fact that he’s doing the Ultimate Fighter Brazil series with Anderson Silva has put ideas into the heads of the masses who want to see that fight, but Silva would chew him up and spit him out. If Rua cannot beat the likes of OSP, how would he fare against Silva?
While Bisping has had a respectable career with the UFC, Rua has found himself on the end of more losses than wins with the promotion. Since the start of 2012, Shogun has only managed to beat the likes of James Te-Huna and Brandon Vera; hardly big names in the LHW division. Bisping has found that since 2012 he has been stuck in a rut in the sense that with every win he manages to pull out also has a loss following afterwards. He has gone 3-4 since the start of that year and it might be time to rethink where he wants to be. He will always have a job as a pundit alongside Daniel Cormier on FOX Sports. Could it be time to hang up the gloves for the Brit?
As far as Shogun goes, he has aged beyond his years. At just 32 years of age, he is younger than former champions Lyoto Machida and Rashad Evans. On top of that he is younger than other contenders Daniel Cormier, Dan Henderson, Glover Teixeira and Jimi Manuwa, but he seems older than everyone apart from Hendo. Shogun has lost whatever spirit he had when he was in the PRIDE organisation, and it would be better if he hung up his gloves sooner rather than later. He has dropped from one of the best in the world to yet another Chuck Liddell/Wanderlei Silva/Tito Ortiz.
A positive sign for almost retired fighters is the example that has been set by former UFC veterans such as Randy Couture, Martin Kampmann and Duane Ludwig. Randy was a coach while he was still fighting, whereas Kampmann and Ludwig have parlayed a successful striking career in mixed martial arts into a new path coaching new up and comers. Both have recently coached at Team Alpha Male, which is the gym that Urijah Faber owns. Ludwig was credited with being the 2013 Coach Of The Year by the World MMA Awards. So it isn’t all doom and gloom for fighters who are looking for their next step in life. Fighting is a young mans game, and the second you start to fall off the pace, it might be better to just step aside.