Kyle Kingsbury, a cast member on 'The Ultimate Fighter' (TUF) season 8, is coming off a brutal fight with Jimi Manuwa five weeks ago and strongly considering retirement from the sport. Kingsbury said he was leaning in that direction when interviewed by Ariel Helwani on The MMA Hour on Wednesday.
"I'm leaning toward not doing it again," said the American Kickboxing Academy-based fighter. "That's where I am right now. There are a number of reasons why I won't say I'm retiring. Some of that has to do with medical bills still being covered, and some of that has to do with not knowing If I'll get that itch again. I could wake up a month or two from now and be as hungry and I've ever been and think I shouldn't have opened my mouth a month ago. So there's no finite decision, but I am leaning toward not fighting again and becoming a fireman."
Kingsbury, 30, has an 11-5 record with one no contest, but has lost his last three fights to Stephan Bonnar, Glover Teixeira and Jimi Manuwa. He suffered two orbital bone fractures against Manuwa in an exciting fight that many felt was the fight of the night at UFC on FUEL TV 5. Because of his performance where he came back to win the second round after being nearly knocked out in the first and before the fight was stopped due to an eye injury while he had momentum, UFC did not release him.
"They haven't cut me and I'm very grateful for that," he said. "If I decide to stick around, it'll be in the UFC."
Kingsbury at this point has been able to avoid surgery for his injuries as well as fly home from the fight. With bad eye injuries post-fight, sometimes the pressure can damage the eye and it was possible he may have not been able to fly. In having to get from Birmingham, England to San Jose, Calif., that would have posed a major problem.
"The doctor told me to watch out for pressure," he said about his eye being checked after the Sept. 29 fight. "He said if I feel pressure, there could be serious complications flying. I went from England to Amsterdam first, before we came back to San Francisco for a day. That (the flight to Amsterdam) was a test, an hour long fight. It didn't feel bad at all. I knew after that hour long flight I'd be good to fly."
Right now he said the eye is feeling good, even if it isn't fully healed.
"It feels great," he said. "I've got full movement. Obviously, I still have the raccoon eyes. I've got to get checked out one more time to see if don't need surgery, so that's still pending."
Kingsbury, who was requested to trim his beard before the fight by Manuwa's camp, faced the unbeaten BAMMA light heavyweight champion who was making his UFC debut, in front of a partisan British crowd, Kingsbury was working for a submission early in the first round, but his arms got tired. He took a terrible beating late in the round, one that would have stopped the majority of fighters. However, he came back in the second and was furious when the fight was stopped at the end of the round.
"I felt in the third he was spent and I was going to get him," he said. But his opinion is different today.
"I was relieved (it was stopped) in hindsight knowing that I had the fractures," he said. "In the moment, I wanted to fight so bad. I felt the momentum shifting. I got my second wind. I got my arms back. The first part of the first round, I tried to get a submission with an anaconda, d'arce series. I was thinking, `Don't squeeze too hard.' But late in the first round, I felt like I had limp noodles (for arms) and he went to town on me."
Kingsbury was planning on becoming a fire fighter since college, but that was at the same time he started in mixed martial arts. He went to Arizona State, and was on the football team at the same time Ryan Bader, Cain Velasquez and C.B. Dollaway were on the wrestling team. Kingsbury was a good high school wrestler and knew a lot of members of the team. After college returned home to San Jose. He started training for MMA at the AKA Gym because a high school friend, Daniel Puder, was training there.
He had already gotten through written and physical exams in applying for a fire fighting job. He showed up with a black eye from fighting. He was told that if he showed up with a black eye during his probationary period, someone in the department may feel that's not the right look for a fire fighter and it could cost him his job.
"I made the decision to go to MMA for as long as it may last, and go back after to being a fireman again."
"I've got some soul searching to do, to see where I'm at mentally, emotionally and spiritually," he said. "I've got to digest the whole situation, the career, to see if it's something I want to continue to do. Thankfully I've got a six month (medical) suspension to figure it out. It's not something I have to decide right off the bat."
If he does come back, he said he wants to take enough time to improve aspects of his game before returning, citing Dan Hardy taking a long time off after his last loss and coming back a different fighter.
"People don't get into the sport to become a millionaire," he said. "You get into the UFC because you're trying to beat someone's ass. I'm 4-4 in UFC. It was never my goal to be a .500 fighter. Whatever I end up choosing, if I do end up wanting to fight again, there will be a period of time of working to improve before I can come back."
And if not, he said he'll be satisfied with his career.
"Very much so. That's a big conversation I had with my head trainer, Bob Cook," he said. "He told me, `If this ends up being your last fight, you ended with a legend in Stephan Bonnar, you ended with a guy who could have a belt in Glover Teixeira, and you ended with a great fight that ended with people on their feet in England.' I've got nothing to hang my head about. I've loved every second. Fighting has changed me as a person and made me a better person."