Felicia Spencer knew before she ever set foot in the octagon for her last fight at UFC Vegas 42 that she was going to call it a career afterwards.
According to the one-time title challenger, she was ready to retire win, lose or draw after her matchup against Leah Letson but she also didn’t want that decision to serve as a distraction for her performance.
“It’s been a little while,” Spencer said about how long she’s known retirement was looming when appearing on The MMA Hour. “Definitely leading into this camp, I already knew that this was going to be my last fight and honestly was thinking about it the camp prior to this one, back in the spring and a little bit after the fight, after I lost, I was thinking that might be it.
“But it didn’t really sit well with me how the performance went in May so I was really excited to train and to focus on another fight and come away with a win.”
Despite a 9-3 record including three wins in the UFC, Spencer knew that the sand was already running out of the hourglass when it came to her fight career because she never really intended on sticking around past her expiration date.
While some athletes struggle to when it comes time to retire, Spencer already had her mind made up, which is why the decision didn’t weigh on her all that much.
“Honestly, I’ve always looked at fighting as not a long term thing for me,” Spencer said. “I know it’s different for everybody. I started training competitively for MMA when I was 18. Obviously, I’ve been doing martial arts my whole life. When I started training to compete in amateur fights, I always kind of thought when I’m 30, I’ll probably be calling it a day. That will probably be enough time, 12 years from that point.
“It’s kind of weird to me that it worked out the way it did cause I was 30 for my last fight. It wasn’t set in stone. It wasn’t a hard deadline for me but it really just all revolves around the future of my mental health.”
In her initial statement about retirement, Spencer mentioned that her long term health was the primary driving factor behind her calling it a career.
Spencer hasn’t faced any major concerns where things like brain damage are concerned but she also knows that the human body can only be pushed so far before irreparable harm is done.
“I’m fine but I just know that the brain can only take so much and I’ve been in some wars,” Spencer said. “The only way to guarantee not being in a war is just to not go in there. I’ve shown myself I’ll do whatever it takes to stay in the fight. For me, the only way I can avoid getting damage as a guarantee is not to fight.
“I feel really good. I feel like I’m in my prime. I feel like Nov. 13 when I stepped in there, I was going to beat anybody that was in front of me. I was really determined. I had an amazing camp. I was super excited to be in there and it’s kind of a hard decision but I know in my heart, that’s what I want to do.”
Even with just 12 fights on her professional resume, Spencer knows she’s already suffered through some grueling battles — including eight rounds spent in the cage with Amanda Nunes and Cris Cyborg — not to mention the rigors her body has endured through various training camps over the years.
“I probably have already done some damage more than likely so it’s just time to call it,” Spencer said. “I’m referring to trauma leading to issues. I’m doing great. I’m really happy with my decision. I feel good about where I’m at. I’m excited for what the future holds.”
Walking away while still completely healthy and happy was hugely important to Spencer and that’s why she’s resolved in the decision she’s made.
Spencer is proud of the career she made while fighting but now it’s time for the next chapter in her life.
“I don’t regret being in there,” Spencer explained. “I don’t regret going the distance. I’m happy with how it all worked out but every war that you’re in — not just me but every fighter — you guys know just watching, after one of those wars happen you’re like ‘that person is never going to be the same again.’ I know those effects can be long lasting and they really just accumulate.
“I never envisioned myself fighting until I was in my late 30s. I didn’t want to push it until I just couldn’t go anymore. I didn’t want to be broken when I stopped fighting. I’m the best I’ve ever been. It’s the right decision for me.”