Many UFC fighters have encountered a great deal of reluctance when it's time for them to hang up their gloves. And while that may seem completely natural, it is only fair to say that an overly stretched career will do the fighters more harm than good, both physically and mentally.
In the past, there have been quite a few instances where UFC fighters bore the brunt of late retirement. However, there are some big names in the promotion who would rather avoid that possibility and call it a career just at the time when retirement looms over them, even if they find it lucrative to continue their octagon run.
That said, let's take a look at five such former UFC champions who may bid adieu to the sport of MMA in 2021.
#5 Andrei Arlovski (Former UFC heavyweight champion)
Andrei Arlovski turned 42 in February. The Belarusian's MMA career commenced more than two decades ago in 1999, when a 20-year-old Arlovski lost his debut fight in M-1 Global, a Russia-based MMA promotion.
After Arlovski registered a series of victories under his belt, the UFC knocked on his door. He signed with the promotion in 2000, where he enjoyed an eight-year stint in his first run, and a heated rivalry with the legendary Tim Sylvia. Arlovski also won the heavyweight championship in 2005, which he eventually lost to Sylvia a year later.
In 2008, Arlovski and the UFC decided to part ways before coming to terms once again in 2014. Although he did start his second UFC run on a high, it appeared that his age was catching up to him. 'The Pitbull' was never the same following his loss to Stipe Miocic at UFC 195.
His most recent submission loss against Tom Aspinall has only got the fans clamoring for his retirement, and the 42-year-old is likely to put a stop to his MMA career later this year.
#4 Robbie Lawler (Former UFC welterweight champion)
Robbie Lawler had an extraordinary resurgence when the UFC signed him for the second time in 2013. With his utter grit and determination, 'Ruthless' made sure not to offer the UFC another opportunity to cut him loose, and that only established him as one of the biggest superstars in the promotion.
Lawler was involved in slugfests often regarded as some of UFC's greatest fights, which is moderately proving consequential at this point when he is 38 years of age. Since losing his title to Tyron Woodley, Lawler has only won once and lost four fights in the UFC.
He has delivered lackluster performances in his previous few fights, and that only makes the case for Lawler's retirement since he is not getting any younger. The likes of Rafael dos Anjos, Colby Covington, and Neil Magny totally dominated him, and it shouldn't be surprising if Ruthless calls it a career in 2021.
#3 Frankie Edgar (Former UFC lightweight champion)
Frankie Edgar sent shockwaves around the world of MMA when he got the better of B.J. Penn at UFC 112 in 2010. Coming in as a huge underdog into the fight, Edgar made his presence felt in the UFC lightweight division at the end of the fifth round.
Penn had just broken the record of most consecutive lightweight title denses, and for Edgar to comfortably edge past his opponent like that, it spoke volumes about his fighting characteristics. A trilogy of fights with Penn, and a couple of barnburners with Gray Maynard and Benson Henderson helped Edgar become one of the most well-known lightweights of his era.
However, 'The Answer' moved down to featherweight, where he put together a commendable 8-4 record. After two straight losses against Max Holloway and Chan Sung Jung, Edgar decided to compete in the bantamweight division. He recently fought Cory Sandhagen at UFC Vegas 18, where he found himself on the receiving edge of a brutal flying knee from 'The Sandman'.
At the age of 39, Edgar may not comfortably undergo a weight cut process to tip the scales at 135 pounds, and maintain the same explosiveness and speed as he did before.
#2 Tyron Woodley (Former UFC welterweight champion)
Tyron Woodley has put on a slew of spiritless performances lately. The 38-year-old has failed to win a single round in his last three fights, forcing the fans to call for his potential retirement.
Physically, it does appear that Woodley still has the same ferocity, but his recent performances have only suggested otherwise.
'The Chosen One' suffered a lopsided defeats at the hands of Kamaru Usman, Gilbert Burns, and Colby Covington, prompting UFC president Dana White to insist Woodley retire. The Missouri native may go on to hang up his gloves should he lose to Vicente Luque, whom he is expected to face at UFC 260.
#1 Conor McGregor (Former UFC featherweight and lightweight champion)
Given that Conor McGregor has already retired three times, it shouldn't be surprising if 'The Notorious One' chooses to end his MMA career once again. And all it may take is another devastating loss.
McGregor suffered the first knockout loss of his career against Dustin Poirier at UFC 257, and the former two-division champion cited inactivity as the reason behind it. During the post-fight press conference, the 32-year-old said that he is unsure about his position in the UFC:
"Fair play to Dustin, very happy for him. Very happy I got to compete in these times and come back with my 11th UFC main event. And that's it. I'm tired... And I don't know where I'm at to be honest," said McGregor.
McGregor has made it clear that he is willing to fight Poirier for the third time later this year, but a second straight loss to 'The Diamond' might not be easy for him to absorb should he come up short again. If that is indeed how it turns out, we may see the last of McGregor inside the UFC octagon, unless of course, he decides to make another come back.