Okay, BJ Penn is coming out of retirement again to fight Yair Rodriguez. After a two year lay-off he is at it again and wants that UFC gold. That’s great. I will never knock a man for chasing his dreams. Trust me, I want Penn to win. I bought his books, watched his BJJ channel religiously and even learned a couple of his boxing combinations. I never used them because I thought the four punch combo would leave me too open.
However, Rodriguez is a live wire, unpredictable and has momentum. He is 24, full of fire and venom and has been training non stop for the past few years. Penn just turned 38 and has had long layoffs in the sport. I think this is a dangerous fight for him on many levels and not just because of his age. Age is a factor, but I think retirements are a major factor in tripping up many fighters who return to their sports.
I am recognizing a trend that is prevalent in many sports, but more so in combat sports such as boxing and MMA. Fighters retire and then come back after long lay-offs and put themselves in dangerous positions. They are convinced they are hanging up the gloves and going off into the sunset. However, since a fight is a fight and anything can happen a retired fighter can almost always get an upper tier or championship fight after doing nothing for years. Therefore, they keep coming back.
When I say stop it. I mean stop retiring. I propose that instead of fighters retiring, they instead state they are placing themselves on Inactive Status until the age of 46. By doing this they can avoid many things.
1: Lessen Ring Rust
By claiming an Inactive Status they will know that they will most likely fight again. Therefore, they can continue to train, learn new techniques, evolve as a fighter, stay up to date with inevitable changes in the sport and always be in shape. No, they do not have to train at full tilt. However, they should train hard and smart enough to maintain skills, flexibility, endurance, etc.
2. Spend less Money
By training and staying in shape they can avoid bad habits retired people and people with a lot of money and nothing to do fall into. These habits include eating too much, traveling too much and spending money on unnecessary items to entertain oneself.
3. They will be realistic
Many fighters who go out on top or near the top still believe they can ‘whup’ anyone placed in front of them. All they need is to join up with the best trainer and a great camp. Hogwash! Yes, I said hogwash. They do not know how much they have declined and carry false ideas of greatness.
It is similar to the 40-year-old who thinks he can beat his nephews who run high school track because he used to be a Division I track athlete. He remembers his old glory and doesn’t realize how much he has declined. However, by claiming an Inactive Status (with the full intention of fighting again) he will continue to train and will know how he measures up against up and comers. He will not get surprised. People in your camp and who you bring in to spar and help you out are not going to tell you that you don’t have that “It Factor” anymore. They are just going to pump you up and in worst case scenarios, collect a check.
4. Avoid Missing the Game and coming back to do something stupid
Finally, by claiming an Inactive Status and continuing to train with the full intention of getting better and improving I believe many of the guys who do eventually return will fare better. They will accept or take more appropriate fights and know their limits or if they have any. Also, it will lead to a more disciplined life. When they turn 46 they can hang it up knowing that they had a full fighters experience and don’t have to return to try to check off some boxes they left untouched.
***Fighters who have suffered severe injuries, concussions and other health maladies should never continue fighting. Fighters should always train safely to minimize the effects of CTE and other maladies that come along with combat sports.
What do you guys think?
You can read Bakari’s books: Grappling 101: How to Avoid being Bullied on the Mat, Psychology of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Grappling Games: BJJ & Submission Wrestlers, Tapmonster: Ideas about Grappling for BJJ and Submission Wrestlers, Grappling for Newbies, 20 Ways to Increase Grappling Skills off the Mat, The Lazy Man’s Guide to Grappling and much more.