Brad Pickett is less than a day away from stepping into the UFC’s Octagon for the very last time. He has mixed emotions going into Saturday’s UFC Fight Night 107 in London.
Come Sunday morning, Brad Pickett will no longer be an active mixed martial artist.
Pickett has been in the sport for over 12 years. At the age of 26, the London, England native walked to the cage for the very first time at Cage Rage 9 in November 2004. He won that fight by first-round TKO.
Pickett has always been known to entertain, and over the course of his lengthy career, he’s put on a handful of thrilling scraps. He’s long been a fan favorite because of this. Though Pickett came close, he never reached the top of the UFC and claimed gold. But there’s no shame in that. So few people do. The bantamweight does, however, hold several notable wins under his belt, including a win over current pound-for-pound king Demetrious Johnson — before Johnson’s lengthy reign in the flyweight division.
Everyone’s time comes to an end in prize fighting, and at 38 years old, Pickett’s time has come to an end. It’s time for him to hang the gloves up.
“One Punch” will cap off his fantastic career and begin a new chapter this weekend. In his swan song, he faces Marlon Vera on the main card of UFC Fight Night 107 in his hometown.
According to Pickett, the thought of retirement has been in the back of his mind ever since the end of his flyweight stint (March 2014 to November 2014), but he officially decided he wanted to step away following a March fight in London after a loss to Iuri Alcantara at UFC 204 last October.
“It then turned into a job for me,” Pickett told BloodyElbow.com’s The MMA Circus. “Don’t get me wrong: I really enjoy my job. But it was different. It wasn’t the case of trying to be number one or getting to the belt. So it changed me. It wasn’t as fun, especially when you’re not winning. If I was winning all my fights, of course I wouldn’t retire, because I love it.
“Also, there’s a lot of new fans into the sport obviously since the Conor McGregor boom. And they don’t really know me that well, and they’ve only seen my last couple of fights where I lost. They see that that’s who I am, but I’m not that guy. I’ve lost a few fights, yeah, but I’ve been around for a long time. I’ve had a lot of great fights throughout my career.”
Pickett is proud that he will be able to leave on his own terms.
“It’s not like it was anything life-threatening to me where if I fight, I could possibly have a long-term injury or something like that,” he said. “It was more like, it’s tough for my body, my body’s getting older, and there is going to be an end at some point.
“My hunger is not there like it used to be.”
Pickett is thrilled to find out what his post-fighting life has in store for him. But he also knows it’s going to be tough not entering a training camp two or three times per year ever again.
“A lot of mixed emotions, to be honest. Very mixed,” he said when asked how he was feeling leading up to his last fight. “One part of me can’t wait to retire, looking forward to it. And then another part is going to miss it straight away.”
That said, Pickett said it would take a lot — and he means a lot — to get him back in the cage, simply because he knows now’s his time to retire and fighting any longer would be a mistake.
“This sport’s very addictive. You will obviously get drawn back to it. I’m very competitive, and that’s why I compete,” he said. “The only thing that probably would make me fight would be if I get offered some crazy, ridiculous amount of money. But then, even if I fight, I’d be fighting for completely the wrong reasons. I have a bit more pride and dignity. It wouldn’t be an easy thing to make me fight again.”
Committing to combat sports full time is a risk for athletes. Fighters don’t make a steady income; they don’t have a yearly salary, or anything close to that. Depending on their skill and popularity levels, if they get seriously injured, they may struggle, or be forced to find another job for the time being.
This is something Pickett compares to the next chapter of his life. His retirement plans are as follows: spend more time with his wife, Sarah, and one-and-a-half-year-old son, Buddy; focus on his mixed martial arts organization, Rise of Champions; open up a gym in the United Kingdom called Great Britain Top Team.
Pickett will remain part of the sport with the latter two plans, and that’s also how he hopes to make a living going forward. But realistically, he isn’t 100 percent sure whether he really will be able to live off his organization and future gym.
“I really don’t know,” he admitted. “It is quite a daunting thing not knowing. But I’ll be alright. I’m a workaholic. I’m always working. As long as I have two hands and two feet, I’ll work.”
Pickett was paired up with Henry Briones for Saturday’s UFC Fight Night 107, but last week, Briones was forced off the card (this was the third time Pickett and Briones were scheduled to fight; all three times Briones was the one who pulled out). “Chito” stepped up on very short notice.
Pickett noted that Briones and Vera are completely different fighters stylistically, but the Englishman is otherwise unfazed by the change in opponents.
“I always train general; I don’t really focus on opponents much,” he said. “I wanted to fight Henry Briones, because I think me and him would be a really fun fight. But this guy’s a completely different fight. It’ll be an exciting one, anyway, but a different one.”
Pickett always puts pressure on himself going into fights, and that doesn’t change for his last hurrah, he said. But despite the Vera bout being in his hometown of London and it being his last fight, there will actually be less pressure than usual, because a win or loss doesn’t affect his position and standing in the UFC. He, of course, wants to win for himself like always, but he’s done after Saturday, so it doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things.
“Normally, I put pressure on myself to win a fight, because if I win a fight, I go through one door, and if I lose a fight, I go through a different door,” Pickett said. “There’s a lot riding in this sport: where you go in the division, job security. If you keep losing, you might get cut. You have loads of things going on. Winning is very important.
“This one, it doesn’t matter. If I win, I go in the same direction as I would if I lost. The pressure on the outcome is not there. But me being a very competitive person, I always want to win. But there’s no pressure from the organization, so I can go out there and enjoy myself.”