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And Now He’s Retired: Mac Danzig Leaves UFC Due to Concussions, Loss of Motivation

(Photo via Getty)

UFC lightweight Mac Danzig announced his retirement from MMA yesterday, after a 12-year professional career marked by a King of the Cage title reign, a dominant run on The Ultimate Fighter, and inconsistent performances in the Octagon. Danzig most recently competed at UFC on FOX 9 in December, where he lost a unanimous decision to Joe Lauzon. It was Danzig’s third consecutive defeat, and dropped his official UFC record to 5-8.

Considering how disillusioned he’d become with the sport, Danzig’s decision to walk away  shouldn’t come as a surprise. The 34-year-old explained his decision on his tumblr blog, citing recent concussions and loss of motivation as his primary reasons for leaving. Here are some excerpts:

It has been a long, amazing, arduous, thrilling, painful, depressing, spectacular, self-realizing, worthwhile struggle of a journey, for which I have no regrets. I have accomplished a lot in the sport, especially thanks to the many opportunities the UFC has given me. The competition level that I reached is far beyond what I ever imagined being able to do when I first set out to be a fighter in the year 2000. That being said, in hindsight, my enthusiasm and motivation for competition definitely reached it’s peak around 2008 (after 7 years prior of toiling in the minor professional leagues) and it’s been an uphill battle ever since.

I really have been struggling the past few years with contemplating retirement. And with it in the back of my mind, my performance has suffered. Only those closest to me know about this. A true fighter never wants to give it up. The will to compete dies hard. I have had to teach myself that intelligently stepping away does not equal “giving up”.
When you slow down in most other sports, whether due to injury or lack of passion, usually you can still preserve your personal dignity and your physical brain, and keep working hard until you truly know it’s time to leave, but that’s not always the case in MMA.

Physically speaking, I have felt great from the neck-down throughout most all of my career, (with the exception of a few injuries here and there) so it was very hard to consider leaving when I knew my body would continue to perform amazing feats of endurance and skill, should I ask it to. Really, the only physical cue for me to step back from competition came last year, when I began to suffer repeated concussions in training, leading up to what would end up being my first ever actual knockout loss, in July. After that, my ability to take hard strikes in training without losing consciousness began to deteriorate rapidly.

After 14 years of training and taking shots like a champ, my brain was finally telling me to chill out. I was never the type of fighter to “train stupid”, but sparring was always something I partook in at full throttle. I truly feel that the damage was done in the gym over the past decade, and hundreds of hard sparring sessions have accumulated, leading me to the situation I find myself in now. Certainly, some of my performances throughout the years in which I had fallen short can be directly attributed to the idea that I “left it all in the gym.”

I would like to serve as an example for the up and coming fighters of the world and hopefully encourage smarter training practices that include less sustained trauma in training camp, leading to a longer, healthier career and better performances in the ring.

As a parent, I must take into consideration how important my sustained brain function is and how tragic it would be to have Parkinsons, Alzheimer’s, dementia, etc. Nobody ever forced me, I chose to be a fighter and I have no regrets about what has already transpired thus far, but I must make the right decision for the future. This was never a concern for me until I became a father. And fighting, to me, had never seemed even the slightest bit dangerous until the past year. That is a good sign for me to bow out. As a hardcore fan, I have seen far too many people in the sports of MMA and boxing let themselves stay in far too long. Legacies get tarnished and the body pays for it as well. Part of me wants to fight forever, but I feel I am making the right decision.

I could complain and go on and on about how tough it is to be a fighter, how time-consuming and self-focused it is, and how nobody understands what it’s like, (which may be true) but I chose this path in a free world and what I have received from this trip has been incredibly rewarding, far beyond any pain…

I have not decided exactly what I’m going to do professionally full-time, but I am planning to stay involved with the sport, continuing to work with the UFC (if possible), training students 1-on-1, coaching fighters and giving seminars. While I continue this line of work, I am still making time to pursue my passions in other arts, as a nature photographer/tour-guide, freelance cinematographer, writer and public speaker…Animal rights, human rights and diet/health are still very much in my blood and I will continue to promote them with good conscious into the future.

This has ended up being far more long-winded than I had originally planned, so I’ll cut it short now. I just want to end by saying that I truly appreciate the support I have gotten from the fans. I have been lucky enough to leave my mark, compete for millions and inspire many people during my fighting career, and that positive energy has always reflected back and resonated throughout me. Thank you for being a part of this. The continuation starts now. :)

When Danzig entered the UFC via TUF 6 in 2007, it was clear that his talent level was miles ahead of his fellow cast-members. Though he had come to the show following back-to-back losses to Clay French and Hayato Sakurai (in his lone PRIDE appearance), Danzig had already racked up over 20 pro fights and had been a four-time defending lightweight champion for King of the Cage.

Danzig sliced through the welterweight bracket on TUF 6, winning four consecutive fights by first-round stoppage — a feat that hadn’t been accomplished before, and has only been replicated since then by Diego Brandao. After choking out Tommy Speer at the TUF 6 Finale and dominating Mark Bocek in his return to lightweight at UFC 83 in April 2008, it seemed like Danzig was on his way to becoming a legitimate threat in the UFC’s 155-pound division.

That’s about when Mac lost his passion for the sport, to hear him tell it, and his record certainly reflected that. He lost eight of his next 11 fights, racking up two separate three-fight losing streaks in 2008-2009 and 2012-2013. Still, the UFC kept him around and rewarded his fan-friendly style — he won Fight of the Night bonuses for three of his losses, and a Knockout of the Night bonus for KO’ing Joe Setevenson at UFC 124.

Mac Danzig will always be one of those UFC fighters who didn’t live up to the expectations that we placed on him. Fortunately, he’s leaving the sport on his own terms, for the right reasons, and without any apparent bitterness. Despite his losses, Danzig spent half of his career competing at the highest level of the sport. Not many MMA fighters can say that.

Thanks for the great fights, Mac, and good luck with whatever comes next.

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