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Frankie Edgar reveals reasons behind decision to retire after UFC 281: ‘I know I can’t fight forever’

UFC 268: Usman v Covington 2 Photo by Cooper Neill/Zuffa LLC

Frankie Edgar knows he could keep going beyond his next fight at UFC 281, but he’s already declared that Nov. 12 will be the last time he’ll ever compete in mixed martial arts.

A former UFC lightweight champion, who has also fought for gold at 145 pounds and remained a stalwart in the rankings at bantamweight, the 40-year-old veteran decided ahead of his return to action that it was time to call it a career.

According to Edgar, there was no single moment that led to his decision but instead a multitude of factors that ultimately led him announcing his looming retirement.

“It’s a lot of things I would think,” Edgar told MMA Fighting. “Kind of the way my fights have been going as of late led to that as well. My body, I am getting older. I feel great. In camp, I’m such a strong minded person that I always have great camps. I always feel good but the body takes its toll throughout the years and I just want to move on and see what’s next.

“I know I can’t fight forever. I could definitely string it on a couple more years probably but I know I’ll never move on to what’s the next chapter in my life. I think now I’m being selfish when I’m still trying to chase this and I’ve got a family and kids that want to have goals of their own. They want me around and probably want me to be able to speak good and have my wits about me. I just know it’s probably the best time.”

Edgar’s last two fights both ended in violent knockouts but he was also facing two of the best bantamweights in the sport in Marlon “Chito” Vera and Cory Sandhagen.

While he’s still healthy and suffering no severe maladies from his fighting career, the New Jersey native knows that he’s gambling against time by continuing to absorb damage in each and every fight. Concerns over potential brain damage in combat sports should be something every fighter thinks about, and Edgar says even as good as he feels right now, it was impossible to ignore.

“It’s definitely in the back of your mind,” Edgar said. “You can’t help but hear talks of that in sports and especially in our sport but across all sports. It’s not like I notice anything like oh man, I’m forgetful or I’m slurring my words but I don’t know if that’s how it works. Does it happen one day, you wake up and you’re messed up or does it happen gradually? Who knows.

“I’m going to be 41 next week and I feel like I’m somewhat coherent, maybe not the most, but I guess good enough for now so maybe leave well enough alone.”

Edgar has also witnessed the horror stories in both mixed martial arts and boxing when fighters just don’t know when to quit.

Legends of the sport are almost forced out after suffering brutal knockouts or enduring several losses in a row where it’s clear they’ve lost a step. As a likely UFC Hall of Famer one day, Edgar’s legacy is already cemented and he never wants to be in a position where people are calling for his retirement rather than making that choice for himself.

“I don’t want to be that guy,” Edgar said. “It’s not fair to put my family through that either. My pride doesn’t want to deal with that either. I feel like I can still hang with the best in the world.

“[But] I think in the past, I would have won those fights and now I’m not winning those fights. I don’t know if that’s the way time goes or guys are getting better or that’s the breaks of this game. Now’s the time. We get one more in New York, right in my backyard, a lot of history there. I think it’s a good sendoff.”

Announcing that he would retire before facing Chris Gutierrez at Madison Square Garden also made Edgar fully commit to the idea.

Truth be told, Edgar never imagined he would actually use that word at all.

“I hate saying it but I’ve got to say it,” Edgar said. “I always thought I was going to be a guy that would never say I’m retiring but if I don’t say it, I’ll never get out of there. I think now’s the time. I need to worry about what I’m doing next. I need to kind of move past this part.

“I’m not one to kind of say stuff and then renege on it. I said it, I’m going to follow through. It sucks. I definitely don’t want it to be but all good things come to an end.”

With plans to coach, potentially open a gym of his own and maybe even dabble in acting — not to mention being a dedicated husband and father — Edgar is sticking to his decision, although like most fighters he’ll still leave a slight crack in the door that could open under the perfect circumstances.

“It would be selfish if I keep pursuing these dreams,” Edgar said. “And not that I’m not around that much. It’s a good career to have to raise a family. You’re around when you want to be but I just think it’s time to dive most of my attention to what’s next.

“I’m not going to say I’ll never say die but it would have to be a really good situation for me to come back.”

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