Brad Pickett is one of the most well-liked characters who has crossed our paths in the sport of mixed martial arts, and it’s in large part because the London native is an honest chap.
Honest enough, in fact, to admit that at age 38, the bantamweight standout isn’t quite the fighter he used to be.
Which is why he’s decided to go out on his own terms. The fighter nicknamed “One Punch” will hang ‘em up on Saturday, as he’ll compete in his final professional fight in his hometown, meeting Marlon Vera at UFC Fight Night 107.
And the ability to dictate his career’s final chapter, a rare thing in the fight game, is something on which Pickett places a high value.
“I’m a very proud person,” Pickett said on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour. “I’ve been losing more than winning lately, so I’d rather leave on my terms than get cut. But I love it that much where I want to respect what I’ve done with it and walk away.”
Like other lighter-weight fighters of his generation, Pickett’s prime came before his weight class was fully established on a worldwide level. The biggest win of his career came at the legendary WEC 48 in Sacramento on April 24, 2010 over current pound-for-pound kingpin Demetrious Johnson, a bout contested at bantamweight before flyweight, where Johnson currently resides, was even considered viable.
Pickett was already a veteran of 25 fights with a record of 20-5 by the time the UFC absorbed the WEC’s bantamweight and featherweight classes at the end of 2010. He’s amassed a UFC record of 5-8 as he went from bantamweight down to flyweight in an attempt to get another fight with Johnson and then back up again. It eats at Pickett to know that new fans, particularly on his side of the pond in the Conor McGregor era, don’t know the fighter who was once right in the brink of a title shot.
“There’s a lot of new fans coming into the sport now who have only seen me lose fights, they didn’t see my wins back in the day in my prime years, they didn’t see any of that,” Pickett said. “So they’re like ‘this Pickett guy sucks.’ I hate that. It’s going to be a tough one because I love my job, but I love it that much where I want to respect what I’ve done with it and walk away.”
Still, Pickett will leave the sport with few, if any regrets, and he’s comfortable that he’s not going to go through life wondering “what if.”
“I didn’t want to be that guy in the bar, and be like ‘I used to fight? Yeah, you see that Demetrious Johnson guy? I beat that guy, if I went down a weight class I would have beat him and been world champion.’ No, I did go down in weight class, I wanted to be guy who tried, and I did, to try to win the belt. That didn’t work, I have no regrets, I did everything I could to be No. 1 in the world.”
In the meantime, Pickett has done his best to treat his final fight camp like it’s been any other camp. But Pickett, who trains with the American Top Team, realized that it won’t quite be the same following one of his final days in South Florida.
“I was trying to block it out as well as I could, because at the end of the day I still have a fight, but it was, I was at American Top Team training for this fight and I came back last Saturday morning, and, it was a strange one because, I was going, and, before the start of the class they got everyone together and said hey everyone, this is Brad’s last wrestling session, and it was like why are we doing this before the fight, you’ll get me really emotional.”
Pickett had a primer for this: His most recent fight, in December, was against future Hall of Famer Urijah Faber in Faber’s hometown of Sacramento. He lost the fight via decision, but it’s served as a blueprint for what to expect Saturday.
“With the Urijah Faber fight, it was all about him, his roller coaster,” Faber said. “But then for me, this one, I put pressure on myself to win fights. If you win your fight you go through one door, if you lose your fight you go through another door. To me now, no matter win or lose, I go through same door, so no matter the outcome of this fight it means nothing to me. Win lose draw whatever, it makes no difference. I have minimal pressure on outcome of the fight, my pressure is just to perform.”
Of course, after Saturday’s final bow, there’s always the question of what’s next in the life of a former fighter. While Pickett plans on taking some time off to be with family, you can be sure he’ll stay a part of the game, as a trainer and coach and through his U.K.-based Rise of Champions promotion.
“I’m a very competitive person,” Pickett said, “But I can compete through another angle. I can compete through other people. I can compete through my guys in the gym, I’m a proud person, so I will do whatever I can to make sure my guys win, because then that’s a good reflection on me.”