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Whenever an MMA legend retires, I experience two feelings:
Sadness and worry.
Sadness because it marks the end of an era in the sport. I’m feeling that a lot these days because the guys and gals who were fresh faces when I started my MMA journalism career are slowly but surely calling it a career, and that just bums me out.
I worry because, of all the sports out there, I find that MMA does the worst job of honoring its legends. Heck, Quinton Jackson echoed this sentiment to me recently when he said he feels like MMA has “forgotten” about him.
Imagine that. Imagine hearing an NBA or MLB great say that? You likely won’t.
Truth be told, I can understand why he feels that way. There are so many events, so many fights, so many fighters and so many grudges, it’s easy to just forget about the people who made us fall in love with this crazy sport to begin with.
The treadmill that is MMA is always at 15 these days. It’s hard to slow it down.
And so I am sad tonight because the great Carlos Condit has called it a career. MMAFighting.com first reported his decision to retire.
What a legend. A fighter’s fighter. All action, no nonsense. One of those guys who no doubt turned many people into MMA fans. One of those guys who helped make the sport what it is today.
He’ll go down as a former WEC welterweight champion and a former interim UFC welterweight champion, but I will forever believe he deserved to be crowned undisputed 170-pound champ following his UFC 195 fight against Robbie Lawler.
What a battle that was. We witnessed the fight of the year and the round of the year (round 5) on the second day of 2016, which I believe was the best year in UFC history.
Alas, Condit fell short in his quest to become UFC champion. But it doesn’t matter. He’s a first-ballot hall of famer, in my view. And boy, do I wish there was an independent MMA hall of fame to honor people like Condit.
And that’s essentially where the worry kicks in. Do the new fans know who Condit is? Do they understand what he did to build this sport? I don’t think they do. And you know what? That’s OK. It’s not fair to ask that of them.
But now, who’s going to teach them? Who’s going to remind them of the wars? Who’s going to keep the legacy of the Natural Born Killer, or Rampage, or JoeJitsu (aka Joseph Benavidez, who also retired this week) and so many others who built this sport alive and well?
If the promotions won’t, who will? The media? I guess so. But that’s not enough. I, like, Rampage fears these fighters are being forgotten about, and that’s just not right.
They need to be sitting in the front row at big events. Honored. Celebrated. They need to be treated like kings and queens. That’s the least we could do for them considering how much they gave to the sport.
Rest assured, MMA wouldn’t have been the same without Carlos Condit. No, he didn’t build the sport. No one person did. He didn’t carry it, either. Again, no one person did. But man, was he a part of its explosion. And man, was he tough. Just ask the great Georges St-Pierre, who said this about Condit on the day he retired:
GSP doesn’t remember that moment if it didn’t involve someone like Condit. I can assure you of that.
My mom and wife attended that fight in Montreal. UFC 154 in 2012. My mom loves Condit, so she got tickets to the fight. She somehow convinced my wife to go with her, too. So that UFC 154 fight is a special one for me. It also produced, as my friend and colleague Shaheen Al-Shatti recalled today, two of the best MMA-related photos ever, taken by the great Esther Lin, another friend and colleague.
And isn’t it weird that Condit (aka Carlos Conduit) retires the week before his old foe Nick Diaz finally returns?
What a strange sport this can be.
Speaking of those two, I’ll leave you with this clip. Check out the final moments of their UFC 143 Primetime series. One of the finest pieces of MMA theater ever produced (by the great Jason Hehir, of “The Last Dance” fame).
And just for ol’ times sake, here’s my interview with Condit on the night he won interim gold back in 2012.
Thanks for the fights, Carlos. Thanks for the memories. Thanks for always keeping it real. May we never forget The Natural Born Killer, and so many others, too.