UFC fighters Perez & Mein opt for retirement in their 20’s

On August 23 UFC lightweight contender Frankie Perez (10-2) snatched the most significant win of his career when he knocked out Sam Stout on the undercard of UFC Fight Night: Holloway vs. Oliveira at the SaskTel Centre in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada.

The TKO victory marked Perez’s first UFC win in just his second appearance with the world’s top MMA promotion; and nobody was expecting to hear the 26-year-old announce his retirement immediately after the victory.

“Me being at 26, man, this was my first win in the UFC and my last,” Perez told Anik. “I’m done after this, man. I brought my dreams to come true, and I’m ready for the next chapter in my life. I’m done putting my family and body through all this.”

In a post-fight interview with MMAJunkie, Perez expressed that the victory was a dream come true but that his retirement would have come regardless of the result. His wish to focus more on family life is something that had been on his mind for some time and personal issues had affected his UFC debut performance when losing to Johnny Case in January.

The following Wednesday, Aug. 26, Canadian welterweight Jordan Mein also announced his retirement at the age of 25, with the news being broadcast on UFC Tonight.

Despite retiring at a surprisingly early age, the “Young Gun” had accumulated significant mileage since his professional debut in 2006, building a 29-10 record with a 2-1 stint in Strikeforce before joining the UFC to achieve a run of 3-2.

“I’m just ready to move on in my life,” Mein told UFC.com.

“I really got into teaching,” he explained. “I love martial arts. It’s just the competition side of it, staying at that high intensity and high level, and I’m going to a different aspect of life. I just don’t want to compete anymore at the highest level. I still love to compete in the gym, and I’m more into wanting to teach and maybe even going a different route and getting away from martial arts and doing something else. I don’t know yet.”

“I’m super happy with the way my career went and everything I’ve done in the sport, so I don’t really have that feeling of ‘I can’t retire because I haven’t done anything in my career and I don’t feel satisfied,’” he said. “I do feel satisfied, and I’m happy with myself. I’m not coming to the gym saying ‘I made the wrong decision.’ I’m feeling good about the choices I made in my career. I think it would be different if I didn’t feel that way and if it was a forced situation.”

The unorthodox decision of both fighters could be seen as a result of a mature sense of self knowledge. When an activity as intense as combat sports starts to take its toll physically or emotionally, it is important that an athlete feels enabled and supported to reassesses their priorities. That way negative outcomes and increased risk of injury, both in and out of the cage, may be better avoided.

At the same time there are many avenues available in which to continue being active within the sport, as the early retirement of these and other fighters has shown:

New Jersey’s Perez left the door open for a potential return and explained that he will still be present in the corner of his training partners.

38-year-old Ricardo Almeida retired for a second time in 2011. Like Perez, he was focused on dedicating more time to taking care of his family, in addition to coaching at his New Jersey based Jiu Jitsu Academy where Perez also trains. Shortly after his retirement, Almeida  become a professional MMA judge in New Jersey with an aim to use his knowledge and experience to improve the quality of judging, of which had been heavily criticized.

Similarly, Mein revealed that he will also remain involved with the sport on the coaching side, having found a greater calling for education with the excitement of a clean slate to pursue interests outside of MMA.

As the MMA industry continues to develop the demand increases not only only in traditional areas such as coaching and officiating, but increasingly in the expanding area of sports development and administration.

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