Guest Post by Peggy Morgan
It wasn’t something I ever said aloud, but I knew going into my fight against Megan Anderson last July that I would retire from MMA if I lost. It was a matter of basic economics: whereas defeating Anderson would place me within jabbing range of the featherweight title, losing to her would relegate me to the huddled masses of fighters contending just to contend for contention, at which point – at least for me – the cost of continuing to pursue a career in the sport would outweigh the benefits.
This wasn’t something upon which I dwelled too much leading up to the fight. I didn’t want to psyche myself out, and it didn’t seem all that important in the long run anyway. Regardless of the fight’s outcome, I realized the time for me to walk away was quickly approaching; it was only a matter of whether it would be this year or next. But to continue fighting following a loss to Anderson would only delay the inevitable and increase my chances of sustaining serious injuries without advancing my career beyond a level it had already previously reached.
Retiring, therefore, was the rational decision. But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t also an emotional one.
After I stepped out of the cage following my loss to Anderson (and after the doctor was satisfied that my face was still structurally intact), I returned to the locker room and dug my cellular phone from my duffel bag. There was a slew of texts from friends who had seen the fight and wanted to make sure I was okay. The first person to whom I responded was my boxing coach, Diamond Dave. ‘I’m okay,’ I typed. ‘I think it’s time to be done.’
I set my cellphone on my lap and waited. I trusted Dave’s judgment implicitly, and part of me hoped he would encourage me to keep fighting because, really, the idea of leaving the sport terrified me. It had been the central focus of my life for four years, and I didn’t know if I would be able to fill the space in my life that fighting occupied.
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My cellphone buzzed. Dave had responded. ‘Yeah,’ he said. ‘I think that’s the right choice.’
I stuffed my phone back into my bag and lay down on the floor with my sweatshirt over my face. I let tears stream from my eyes unchecked. It was the first time I’d ever cried after a fight.
When I got home, I told a few of the people closest to me that I was done fighting. Most of them were supportive. My son, who had spent the last two years campaigning for me to stop fighting because he hadn’t fully recovered from the six weeks I spent away from him while filming The Ultimate Fighter, had a sudden change of heart and began lamenting all the beautiful contusions I would never have. ‘I love your purple boo-boos,’ he wailed. I promised him that I would get an occasional black eye from doing Jiu Jitsu. This satisfied him.
I kept my retirement quiet from the rest of the world, though. I didn’t feel ready to announce it. I wasn’t yet totally comfortable with my decision, even though I knew it was the right one. I was afraid that I would regret leaving the sport. There was a part of me that wanted to throw my middle finger high in the air and say ‘f— you, existence’ and keep fighting until I physically couldn’t fight any longer. I knew it was a stupid urge, but it was powerful nonetheless. But then I reminded myself of all the fighters I’ve seen who didn’t walk away at the right time. Brave, intelligent people who couldn’t accept their own limitations and who kept going until their bodies broke and their last shred of dignity lay crumbled on the canvas.
I wouldn’t allow myself to be one of those people.
I stayed quiet and rode out the storm seething inside me. It didn’t take long for life to begin filling in the empty places fighting had occupied. I started reading and writing more. I began leading my son’s Cub Scout den and teaching women’s BJJ classes. I went out with my friends and danced until four in the morning. I drank all the wine. I ate all the cake. Then one day I was sitting in the grass watching my son’s soccer practice and sewing patches onto his Cub Scout uniform, and I realized I was happy. Not just happy. Content. And that’s when I knew I was really ready to move on.
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When I announced my retirement on Facebook, I wrote that I’m happy I fought and grateful for the opportunities I had. And I am. I got to see and experience and feel things many people never will. But now I’m ready to embark on a new adventure.
I sincerely thank everyone who supported me and who stood by me even when I got my ass kicked (which happened pretty frequently toward the end). Now I’m looking forward to joining you guys in the stands to watch some great fights.
EDITOR’s NOTE: Peggy Morgan was a blogger for MMAWeekly.com during her time on The Ultimate Fighter. She is a bright, articulate woman that left it all in the cage, and now it looks like she’s ready to leave it all on the page. Thanks Peggy, and all the best in your future endeavors.
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