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Mark Bocek says UFC’s commitment to inexperienced women fighters contributed to his decision to retire

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

On Monday, Mark Bocek appeared on The MMA Hour and detailed the primary reasons that he decided to step away from fighting after a successful fighting career at 32 years old. The Canadian’s timing was peculiar in that he was coming off a victory against Mike De La Torre at the TUF Nations finale in Quebec City this past April.

It turns out there were many reasons -- beginning with the "rampant" problem MMA has with performance enhancing drugs -- that went into Bocek’s decision to retire. And on Monday, given the platform, the Canadian fighter was more than willing to get some things off his chest.

Besides the PED epidemic, Bocek cited a fear of brain damage after years in the gym sparring and exacting a toll, as well as the UFC’s (and fan’s) disenchantment for grapplers, who are often relegated to the undercard when they don’t put on a show. Bocek, a jiu-jitsu practitioner with wrestling roots, fit the mold of his discontent. He also pointed to the dilution of the product in general, saying that there were so many UFC events these days that he couldn’t keep up.

"In the end, the fans control a lot," he said. "It depends on what they want to see, and what they want to see is stand-up, striking, blood and chaos. So that’s what they UFC is doing, which is kind of shove it down everyone’s throat as much as possible because there’s a big interest for MMA right now. But me being a fan first, it’s lost a little of its appeal to me with all these shows, three or four shows a month. I don’t even know what’s what anymore. Right now I just watch the big fights."

Towards the end of his nearly half-hour long interview with Ariel Helwani, Bocek strayed into other concerns -- such as his inability to deal with defeat very well, and women’s MMA, which he believes tends more towards beauty and aesthetics than depth of skill.

"I’m realistic enough to see the direction [MMA]’s going in," he said. "You know, striking, stand-up, female MMA, that’s the direction it’s heading in. It’s difficult for an obese women’s MMA fighter to get in, but if she has different skills and has cool bikini shots, she can get in."

Asked for clarity on it, Bocek elaborated.

"I’m just saying that the direction of MMA and MMA fans, they’re kind of pushing the female MMA…you know, Ronda [Rousey] technically the pound-for-pound best fighter and, we’ll put experienced, accomplished male fighters on undercards. But we’ll put females that started training last year on co-main events. That direction was kind of the persuasion that forced me to get out. I’m not a female, you know?

"But that’s the direction it’s heading. Girls like Ronda, people know who that is over Cain Velasquez. I think women’s MMA is great, I just didn’t think it should be compared to male’s MMA, just because I think it’s different. And I have nothing against women’s MMA like people think, all I was getting at was, if you want to do women’s MMA that’s great, why not just have a women’s MMA league? The events changed for me once they were having female MMA events where you had someone who had been doing judo their whole life, say, fighting a Marine who started training two years ago. That’s not the same talent of depth. It’s not too difficult to confuse people, because let’s face it, there’s a sucker born every minute, right?"

In other words, Dana White’s pre-Rousey concerns about the relative dearth of talent in women’s MMA -- in addition to the lack of experience therein -- took away from the overall product for Bocek, who steps away with an 8-5 overall record in the UFC.