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Former Strikeforce champ, UFC contender Jacare Souza announces retirement at 41

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MMA: UFC 262-Weigh Ins Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Former Strikeforce middleweight champion and longtime UFC contender Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza on Tuesday announced his retirement, ending an 18-year career that spanned several major MMA promotions.

Souza, 41, opened the door on a return to jiu-jitsu, where he won several titles before turning his focus to MMA. But he told Combate his fighting days are over.

“I’ve already fought too much, I’ve retired too young from jiu-jitsu, and I think I’ve fought too much in MMA and I have no plans to go back to fighting,” he said. “It’s really over. I’m retiring from MMA, and I’m going back to the sport where I made history, the sport I love too much.”

“I’m returning to training and, who knows, [maybe] I’ll go back to competing [in jiu-jitsu]. I’m driven by challenges, and jiu-jitsu is becoming a challenge to me because it’s evolving too much, there are so many new things. It’s beautiful to watch.”

It didn’t take long for Souza to make an impact when he transitioned to MMA. After going 7-1 in his native Brazil, he signed with the Japanese promotion DREAM and went 3-1 with one no-contest after a cut brought a second bid for the middleweight title to an end.

Soon after, Souza signed with Strikeforce and in 2010 outpointed Tim Kennedy to capture the middleweight title. He defended the belt once before a decision loss to Luke Rockhold, who later captured the UFC title.

After Strikeforce was purchased by the UFC, he signed with the industry-leader and won five straight in the octagon. On several occasions, he was close to a title shot. He was even offered a rematch against then-champ Rockhold at UFC 199, but a pending knee surgery ruled him out of the fight. Losses to future champ Robert Whittaker and Kelvin Gastelum subsequently delayed his title hopes.

After a knockout win over ex-champ Chris Weidman, Souza hit a major slump in the octagon, losing four straight bouts including a submission loss to Andre Muniz at UFC 262 that left him with a broken arm.

In May, it was revealed that Souza was no longer under contract with the UFC after eight years with the promotion.

Souza retires with a 26-10 record with one no-contest and owns victories over Robbie Lawler, Gegard Mousasi, Derek Brunson, Yushin Okami and Vitor Belfort, among others.