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From retirement to re-upping: Paul Craig signs new four-fight deal after stunning UFC London comeback

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UFC 209 Ceremonial Weigh-in Photos
Paul Craig has a new UFC contract.
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Paul Craig’s miraculous last-second victory at UFC London did more than save Craig from a dreaded three-fight losing streak. It saved his career.

The 30-year-old Scotsman, who defeated previously undefeated light heavyweight prospect Magomed Ankalaev on Saturday, inked a new four-fight UFC deal this week on the heels of UFC London. MMA Fighting’s Ariel Helwani confirmed the news Wednesday following an initial report by U.K. outlet Metro. And according to Craig, the new contract stopped “Bearjew” from retiring from mixed martial arts entirely.

“If the UFC didn’t offer me a new contract, I wasn’t going to fight anymore,” Craig told Metro.

“I’d already made that decision before the fight. When you set yourself goals, you can’t settle for second best. ... Why would I accept to fight in another promotion? Against weaker opponents? It’s not about the money for me, but it would have been for less money. I was fighting with the attitude that if I lost, then I would end my career not only as a UFC fighter, but an MMA fighter.”

Craig (10-2) snatched victory from the jaws defeat at UFC London, seizing a Hail Mary fight-ending triangle choke at 4:59 of round three to submit Ankalaev in a bout that Craig was literally one second away from losing in lopsided fashion on the judges’ scorecards.

The victory moved Craig’s total record to 2-2 inside the Octagon, with his submission wins over Henrique da Silva and Ankalaev sandwiched between first-round knockout losses to Tyson Pedro and Khalil Rountree. Craig also captured his second ‘Performance of the Night’ bonus for his stunning comeback at UFC London.

Craig told Metro he suffered a few broken ribs and a broken nose against Ankalaev, but he is nonetheless eyeing a return “before the end of summer” — after he takes his two daughters on a trip to Disneyland.

“You’re always anxious coming into a fight, but this one was special,” Craig said. “There was more anxiety because it was a dangerous fight and I was coming to the end of my contract.

“I was coming off two losses. There was the fear that my UFC dream was coming to an end.

“Backs against the wall, in the last second, to win a new contract.”