What do we make of a career like Brad Pickett's?
As if we needed any further proof that announcing your retirement from MMA competition well in advance of your last fight is the way to go, consider the case of Brad Pickett.One Punch suffered his final defeat at UFC Fight Night 107 in London on Saturday. He was doing well, leading Marlon Vera on two of the three scorecards heading into the final round, then bang, a kick upside his head had him looking up at the ceiling. A couple extra hammerfists sent Vera(9-3-1 MMA, 3-2 UFC) off to celebrate his win while Pickett(25-14 MMA, 5-9 UFC) was left complaining to the referee. And so thats it.It wasnt a fairytale ending, but then fairytale endings are usually dull and unrealistic. At least this one felt fitting, albeit in a semi-sad way. Even Pickett had to admit that, if nothing else, it effectively summed up why he was quitting.
At 38, a fighter whod made a career out of his willingness and ability to walk through a punch in order to land one of his own had just been floored by the kind of shot he used to take with alarming ease.
I was winning the fight for 14 minutes, and then I got a head kick where, to be honest, the younger me would have chewed that up and carried on going, Pickett explained after the loss. Its definitely the right decision (to retire).Just to add a little extra poetry to the moment, Pickett went ahead and left his trademark hat in the center of the cage on his way out. Sitting there surrounded by flecks of splattered blood, it looked right at home.The good news for Pickett is that, even in defeat, he got a memorable send-off. An adoring interview from UFC commentator Dan Hardy, a solid wall of cheers from the hometown crowd, even a pre-fight video package farewell from the UFC, for whom Pickett has long been a dependable asset without ever fighting for a title or headlining a card.
He leaves with almost twice as many losses as wins under the UFC banner. Only once during his time with the company did he win two fights in a row, and that was in 2012. Between his WEC and UFC stints, he also won five “Fight of the Night” bonuses three of which came in fights he lost. He also owns a unanimous-decision victory over arguably the best fighter on the planet in current UFC flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson, albeit one weight class up from the one that Johnson now dominates.
But the thing about a legacy like Picketts is that its based more on feelings than on stats. No ones going to try to tell you that he was ever the best, or even among the best.
Still, you knew what you were getting with Pickett. You knew he was going to show up and try to take someones head off, even if it meant using his own head as bait. You knew that, even though he prepared like a real professional, hed still roll up to the cage looking like hed simply misplaced his shirt (though never his hat) whilst leaving the pub.
In both presentation and fighting style, Pickett was a guy who was always on brand. Those are the kinds of fighters the UFC needs, even if it never considers any particular one of them irreplaceable.
That can make it tough to know what to make of those kinds of fighters when theyre done. This sport is unique in its ability to create an atmosphere where athletes can be beloved without being all that great. It works the other way too, as more than one UFC champion has learned the hard way.
But promoters need guys like Pickett, someone who can fill out the TV schedule and provide a worthwhile experience in the process. Fans need them too, since anyone whos name we feel the need to remember in this era of interchangeable undercarders has already won half the battle.Picketts decision to announce his retirement plans before this fight gave us the chance to reflect on his place in the sport in advance. It allowed us to consider what hed brought to the fight game, and what would be missing when he left it.
Maybe its also a reminder that, as much as we love rankings and winning streaks, that whole food chain economy of determining who moves up and who gets pushed down, you dont have to win them all or even most of them to make an impact. When done right, sometimes even a loss can feel like a fitting end.For complete coverage of UFC Fight Night 107, check out the UFC Events section of the site.
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