Evan Dunham definitely needed a break.
After 11 years as a professional fighter, the 38-year-old lightweight announced his retirement from the sport back in 2018. There were multiple factors that led to his decision but ultimately Dunham felt burned out with his passion waning for a sport he always loved so much.
“I think the biggest motivation for initially wanting to step away, I had been doing the same thing my whole life,” Dunham explained when speaking to MMA Fighting. “Pretty much since I left college, I started training full time. I’ve been doing the same thing since then and that was 2004.
“So anybody does a single job for that long, they’re going to get tired. They’re going to start maybe exploring different options. That was the plan. That’s what I did.”
While he began exploring new opportunities, Dunham was never too far removed from MMA thanks to the jiu-jitsu gym he owns and operates in Las Vegas. Add to that, Dunham underwent major shoulder surgery that repaired a lot of damage that had slowed him down for years.
Once he recovered, Dunham began training again and he was amazed at how much happier he felt following a much needed break.
“In that pursuit to find another thing, I kept coming back to the thing I loved,” Dunham said. “In a way it was good for me, it restored that love and passion for the sport. Overall, I think it was good for me. I wouldn’t change it.
“I had a surgery done and it really let me start training again. Sitting around on the couch, trying to heal from surgery will make you want to do something. So it didn’t take me too long what I wanted to do and what I needed to do. We’re at a point where I can put work in that I wouldn’t have been able to put in the past. Overall I’m in a good spot. Really excited to get back in there.”
Once Dunham was determined to fight again, he informed the UFC he was coming out of retirement and he was booked for a fight on April 25 against Michael Johnson.
Unfortunately, nobody planned on a global pandemic forcing the UFC to postpone or cancel several cards, which included Dunham’s return to action.
He faces Herbert Burns in a catchweight contest at UFC 250 on Saturday night.
And now, he’s just excited to fight again, which isn’t something he could say following his last appearance in the UFC.
“I’m just going to keep fighting. I don’t think I’ll ever announce retirement again,” Dunham said. “I think I’ll just eventually stop and not make a production out of it. It’s one of those things where you can feel very passionate about something and then a few things happen and you feel the passion go the other way.
“Perfect example is right now. Before the last fight, I was thinking about the future and what I’ve got to do and worrying too much about the future and not enough about the present. Whereas what’s going on now [with the pandemic], we’ve got to enjoy the present because the future isn’t guaranteed. That’s the mindset I’m at. Let’s just ride until the brakes fall off or we’re sure we don’t want to do this anymore. I’m just going to ride with it and enjoy the ride, so to speak.”