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4 UFC fighters who returned from retirement and succeeded

Georges St. Pierre returned from retirement and cemented his legacy by becoming a UFC double champion.
Georges St. Pierre returned from retirement and cemented his legacy by becoming a UFC double champion.
Scott Newman
SENIOR ANALYST
Modified 25 Mar 2021
Top 5 / Top 10

In an announcement that shocked UFC fans, former UFC Bantamweight champion Miesha Tate officially returned to the UFC in July after retiring in late 2016.

It seems like retirement rarely sticks in the UFC, with a number of notable fighters making their return to the Octagon just as Miesha Tate intends to.

But while some of them were unsuccessful upon return, coming out of retirement is sometimes the best thing for some fighters.

Here are four fighters who returned to the UFC from retirement and succeeded.


#1 Georges St. Pierre (UFC record: 20-2)

Georges St. Pierre returned from four years of retirement to claim the UFC Middleweight title.
Georges St. Pierre returned from four years of retirement to claim the UFC Middleweight title.

Georges St. Pierre was already widely recognized as the greatest UFC fighter of all time prior to his return from retirement in 2017.

However, what he was able to accomplish upon his return just made his legacy even stronger overall.

GSP first hung up his gloves in late 2013. By that stage, he’d held the UFC Welterweight title for an epic five-year period, making a record nine consecutive title defenses.

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St. Pierre held back the challenge of fighters like Jon Fitch, Thiago Alves, Jake Shields, and Nick Diaz. But after a particularly tough fight with Johny Hendricks at UFC 167, it was clear that the Canadian was feeling the pressure.

And so he chose to vacate his title and hang up his gloves – although he did suggest he would be open to a return at some point afterward.

That point turned out to be four years down the line.

GSP returned from retirement in 2017 and moved up to 185lbs for the first time to challenge then-champion Michael Bisping for the UFC Middleweight title.

And after a tough fight, St. Pierre hurt Bisping with punches, sent him to the ground, and then choked him out to become one of the UFC’s only two-division champions.

St. Pierre ended up heading right back into retirement after the win, vacating his newly-won title. But the point had still been made. GSP was now undisputedly the greatest of all time.


#2 Randy Couture (UFC record: 16-8)

Randy Couture stunned everyone by returning from retirement to beat Tim Sylvia for the UFC Heavyweight title.
Randy Couture stunned everyone by returning from retirement to beat Tim Sylvia for the UFC Heavyweight title.
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When Randy Couture hung up his gloves after suffering a knockout loss to Chuck Liddell at UFC 57, he was already well-established as a UFC legend.

43 years old at the time, Couture had held both the UFC Heavyweight and Light Heavyweight titles on multiple occasions and beaten huge stars such as Tito Ortiz, Vitor Belfort, and Kevin Randleman.

But despite settling into a new role with the UFC as a color commentator, it quickly became clear that the competitive fire hadn’t quite gone out for The Natural.

And so, just over a year after initially retiring, Couture returned to action, challenging UFC Heavyweight champion Tim Sylvia for his crown at UFC 68.

Couture came into the fight as a huge underdog, but seconds into the fight, he stunned everyone by dropping Sylvia with a hard right hand.

From there, The Natural used his grappling and clinch work to dominate the larger champion and went on to win a clear unanimous decision – claiming the UFC Heavyweight title for the third time.

Couture went onto defend his title against Gabriel Gonzaga before a contract dispute kept him away from the Octagon for a year.

When he returned, he dropped his title to Brock Lesnar but kept fighting and finally retired, this time for good, in April 2011 – five years after initially hanging the gloves up!


#3 Conor McGregor (UFC record: 10-3)

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UFC superstar Conor McGregor has retired and un-retired on multiple occasions.
UFC superstar Conor McGregor has retired and un-retired on multiple occasions.

Perhaps no UFC fighter has retired and un-retired as many times as Conor McGregor.

The Notorious One remains the UFC’s biggest star and drawing card, and he looks set to face off with rival Dustin Poirier for a third time later in 2021.

However, the temperamental Irishman has already announced his retirement on three separate occasions, each time eventually returning to the UFC for more success and more pay-per-view sales.

McGregor’s first retirement came in April 2016, as he announced via his Twitter that he was done when negotiations for a rematch with Nate Diaz – who choked him out a month prior – went sour.

Cooler heads prevailed, though, and McGregor returned to the UFC to defeat Diaz in a rematch at UFC 202.

Three months later, he became the first fighter in UFC history to simultaneously hold UFC titles in two different weight classes when he knocked out UFC Lightweight champ Eddie Alvarez at UFC 205.

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McGregor has since tweeted two more “retirement” announcements – one in March 2019 and another in June 2020. But both times, he’s returned to the UFC, most recently to fight Poirier this past January.

With this kind of form, who knows how long it’ll be before we see another similar announcement from The Notorious One?


#4 Brock Lesnar (UFC record: 5-3)

Brock Lesnar returned from retirement to defeat Mark Hunt at UFC 200.
Brock Lesnar returned from retirement to defeat Mark Hunt at UFC 200.

Brock Lesnar’s UFC career was brief, but the former WWE superstar made a huge impression during his initial four-year run with the promotion.

After debuting with a loss to Frank Mir, Lesnar recovered to pick up his first-ever UFC win over veteran Heath Herring.

And in his next fight, he knocked out longtime UFC Heavyweight champion Randy Couture to climb to the top of the mountain.

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Questions abounded over Lesnar’s legitimacy, particularly as he only had a 2-1 record before fighting Couture. However, The Beast Incarnate largely quietened his critics by defending his title against Mir in a rematch and then Shane Carwin.

But behind the scenes, Lesnar was suffering from diverticulitis, and the disease laid him up for numerous long stretches. He lost his title to Cain Velasquez in October 2010 and then didn’t return to the UFC for over a year.

When he did, he was promptly stopped by Alistair Overeem, and clearly feeling the effects of his illness, he decided to retire from the UFC for good.

Lesnar returned to WWE just months later, and it seemed his days in the UFC were done. But stunningly, it was announced in 2016 that he’d be back.

The WWE superstar returned to the Octagon at UFC 200 and showed that he hadn’t lost much over his five-year absence. He clearly outpointed highly ranked contender Mark Hunt to pick up his first win since 2010.

However, Lesnar then returned to WWE following his brief excursion, and after testing positive for banned substances, he hasn’t returned to the UFC again.

Published 25 Mar 2021, 18:48 IST
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