It’s been more than eight years since Ricardo Almeida put gloves on to fight for the last time in mixed martial arts, but he’s still seen on a regular basis in MMA shows, cornering the likes of Frankie Edgar and Marlon Moraes in the UFC and Eddie Alvarez over at ONE Championship.
When you ask him about going from cornerman to fighter one more time, he shuts that idea down with a laugh. The jiu-jitsu coach admits he doesn’t work on his striking in the gym anymore to avoid lighting that fire again.
“I still can’t hit pads because I think that if I hit pads the next step will be start sparring again and then I get in my mind that I’ll want to fight again,” Almeida told MMA Fighting. “I’m afraid to give that too much thought, you know? [laughs].”
“Cachorrao” started his MMA career in 2000 with a win over Akira Shoji at Pride 12. He made the transition to the UFC in the following year, going 1-2 in the Octagon before returning to Japan to win five in a row at Pancrase over names like Nate Marquardt, Kazuo Misaki and Ikuhisa Minowa.
The jiu-jitsu specialist put his career on hold after a Pride win over Ryo Chonan in 2004, and finally returned to action four years later under the UFC banner. Almeida scored wins over Matt Brown, Kendall Grove and T.J. Grant in the Octagon before hanging up his gloves for good after a decision loss to Mike Pyle in 2011.
Three months away from turning 43, Almeida is still competing once or twice a year in jiu-jitsu tournaments in the United States, but pushes any MMA thoughts out of his head when watching youngsters train in New Jersey.
“I always have that desire, ‘Can I still fight?’, but then I see Marlon sparring with Frankie, Zabit (Magomedsharipov) with Eddie, and I think that I’m gonna have to spar with those guys. Are you crazy? I’m too old for this [laughs].
“When I really stop and think about it, I’ve already fought, there’s no reason to fight more. I stopped because I lost a fight that I thought I could have won. I always fought because I wanted to become champion and be the best, and when I lost this last fight I knew that it would take more time. I have my students, my family, I have my life to live. I gave my all into fighting, so now I don’t really think about coming back.”
There’s always appetite for veterans in a sport like mixed martial arts, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see a promotion reach out to Almeida for one more bout. “Cachorrao” admits that “if there was a huge offer, big money, of course that I won’t reject,” but he doesn’t see that interest.
“If I stop and think about it, I think my energy is best served in other opportunities as a coach, as a teacher in my school, as a family man, as a father for my sons,” Almeida said. “That’s what I’m focusing on now. I don’t want to come back to fighting [laughs].
“Competing in jiu-jitsu tournaments is cool enough. In fact, I even ask myself why I’m doing jiu-jitsu tournaments again, but then I start training and start to feel good and I just go on. That’s why I’m afraid to give that MMA idea too much thought [laughs].”