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Matt Hamill blames second retirement on ‘bad management,’ wants to fight well into his forties

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

PHOENIX -- The last time we saw Matt Hamill inside the cage, it was a sight Hamill would probably like us to forget. In Oct. 2013, Hamill traveled to Sao Paulo and laid a stinker against Thiago Silva at UFC Fight Night 29, gassing out to the point where the deaf light heavyweight literally bent over and rested his hands on his knees in the closing minutes of the fight. Hamill ultimately lost a decision to Silva and subsequently retired from MMA for a second time after receiving his UFC walking papers.

In retrospect, the entire weekend was simply the culmination of a bad situation that had been festering under the surface for years.

"It was awful. It really was awful," Hamill admitted to MMAFighting.com.

"The thing was, I didn't really have any training. Most of the time I was training on my own in Florida. I had bad management then -- I don't want to say any names -- but they were telling me how I was going to have a great camp. When I got down there, there was nothing there. There were none of these people who they said would be there. It was just me and myself, and it really wasn't worth it."

Hamill ended up training by himself for just four weeks before flying out to Brazil to fight Silva, and he flew out alone. Duff Holmes, a man who effectively served as the only MMA trainer Hamill ever had throughout his career, elected to stay home, disagreeing with Hamill's desire to continue fighting at a professional level. So Hamill tried to take matters into his own hands until things reached a head and the frustration led him to call it quits for the second time in three years.

From the outside, Hamill understands how that on-again, off-again relationship with the sport could be seen as indecision from an athlete who can't let go, but he insists that's not the case.

"It wasn't my relationship with MMA. It was my relationship with my business partners and my management and with their contracts. The issues lied there," Hamill said. "It didn't make a good fit for me, and there was a lot of on-again, off-again with that. There were things that I couldn't do. I was stuck within my contract, I was stuck within this bad management. Nobody was really doing a good job, so it was time for me to step out.

"I've been fighting for 12 years and within that whole time I was with the same business partner, and we just weren't getting the right job done. So it felt like I was going downhill. I wasn't getting the improvement that I needed. So now that I was able to back away, I was able to look for a good training camp, and that's the important part."

Hamill has since been training at Team Impact in Syracuse, New York. At 38 years old, he calls it the first real training camp of his career, and coincidentally enough, his first fight back at WSOF 19 will be against the last man he traded blows with -- Silva.

"I want to prove that I wasn't done," Hamill. "I know that a lot of people think that I was because of my retirement, so now it's just time to come back. My heart is still there, I've still got the fire. I want to get back and fight again, so I'm just going to follow what my body is telling me."

Hamill and Silva make up one-half of World Series of Fighting's upcoming light heavyweight tournament, with Ronny Markes and WSOF middleweight champion David Branch filling out the rest of the bracket. The victor between Hamill and Silva will go on to vie for the inaugural WSOF light heavyweight title, and Hamill knows that a successful run in WSOF could lead to a second shot inside the UFC.

"I want to make sure I get to the end, get that belt," Hamill said. "It's not just a one-time fight, a final fight. No, I want to keep this going for a while. Just one fight wouldn't be worth it for me to come here.

"I still want to pursue what I'm doing. Like Randy Couture, he retired at 47 years old. So I'm going to try and stay healthy and pursue it longer. You had Dan Henderson, he [did the same]. So I'm trying to break the history of (fading in old) age and push it a little farther."

Silva, like Hamill, has been inactive ever since that fateful Oct. 2013 meeting in Sao Paulo -- though for far different reasons. The Brazilian's legal troubles stemming from a Feb. 6 standoff with Broward County police resulted in him getting cut from the UFC not just once, but twice. Silva has been largely silent since, turning down all media requests ahead of his return at WSOF 19, though Hamill doesn't begrudge his opponent for any past mistakes.

"I know that he's had a lot of problems in the past, being in jail. But you know, that's not my job," Hamill said. "I know that he's been among the top-10 fighters in the world and he's a great fighter.

"He's hungry. He wants the belt just like I do. We're on the same page, so really, the situation with his controversy or whatever is going on there, I really don't know anything about it. I just know he's got a good training camp. He's with the Blackzilians and that's great for him, and I think the both of us are going to have a great fight on Saturday."

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