In the world of the UFC, it’s hard for fighters to walk away at the right time. We’ve seen plenty of fighters who hung on for far too long, and others who hung up their gloves too early.
Sometimes, though, we’ve seen UFC fighters make the decision to retire at the perfect time. In doing so, they walked away before their legacy could be damaged, but after they’d achieved everything they could.
Whether all of these fighters remain retired in the future is a question mark, as you can never say never in the world of MMA.
For now, though, here are five UFC fighters who chose the perfect time to retire.
#5. Glover Teixeira – former UFC light heavyweight champion
The latest entry on this list is former UFC light heavyweight champion Glover Teixeira, who made the call to hang up his gloves after his loss to Jamahal Hill this past weekend.
Teixeira was largely outclassed in the fight, but despite it being his second defeat in a row, he never truly looked past his prime.
The Brazilian turned 43 years old in October. Even so, prior to his loss to Jiri Prochazka last year, he’d put together the best run of his octagon career, winning six fights in a row.
When he defeated Jan Blachowicz to claim the light heavyweight title in October 2021, he became the oldest first-time champion in UFC history, breaking the record held by the legendary Randy Couture.
Could Teixeira have continued to fight after this weekend’s loss? Sure. He’d probably have been favored in fights against at least four or five fighters ranked in the top 15.
However, at the age of 43, he’s definitely made the right decision to hang up his gloves. After all, he’s not likely to regain the title, and the more time that passes, he’s only going to slow down further.
Add in the fact that he has a successful coaching gig with current middleweight champion Alex Pereira, and it’s safe to say that this future Hall of Famer has made the right call, and at the right time, too.
#4. Joanna Jedrzejczyk – former UFC strawweight champion
When former UFC strawweight champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk announced her retirement in June 2022, many observers were quite surprised.
The Polish fighter was defeated by Weili Zhang, suffering a bad knockout in the process. Nevertheless, the bout was a top contender’s fight and had she won, she’d have been in line for a strawweight title shot.
More to the point, Jedrzejczyk was 34 years old at the time she hung up her gloves – hardly ancient in the world of MMA.
However, with the power of hindsight, it’s probably fair to suggest that Jedrzejczyk got out of the game at just the right time.
Prior to her knockout loss to Zhang, she’d taken over two years away from the octagon to heal from her initial bout with ‘Magnum’ – a crazy brawl that saw her take a ludicrous amount of punishment.
More importantly, while she’d been able to beat the likes of Michelle Waterson and Tecia Torres, she hadn’t really looked at her best since the end of her reign as strawweight queen in 2017.
Had the Polish fighter stuck around, then the chances are that she would’ve suffered more defeats and could’ve harmed her legacy. As it was, she hung up her gloves with just five losses to her name, being finished just twice.
When you consider that nobody has even come close to matching her record of five successful strawweight title defenses, it’s probably fair to say that she could go down as the best 115lber of all time. That means her decision to retire was perfectly timed.
#3. Jose Aldo – former UFC featherweight champion
When Jose Aldo was defeated by Petr Yan via TKO in the summer of 2020, it would perhaps have been understandable if he’d hung up his gloves.
After all, the defeat was the third in a row for the Brazilian. More importantly, it’d dashed his hopes of winning the UFC bantamweight title, a feat that would’ve added him to the short list of double champions in the promotion.
However, despite approaching his 34th birthday, Aldo decided to continue fighting, and it’s probably fair to say that he made the right call.
He ended up winning his next three bouts, outpointing tough opponents in Marlon Vera, Pedro Munhoz and Rob Font before calling it a day in 2022 following a loss to Merab Dvalishvili.
Why did Aldo retire at just the right time? His loss to Dvalishvili wasn’t a brutal one, coming after he was outgrappled for three rounds. With that, he retired having only suffered four TKO losses in his career.
Had he continued to fight, he may well have been knocked out on more occasions, something that could’ve affected his health in later years.
To add to this, Aldo never looked completely past his prime and never descended into self-parody like so many other fighters. There’s a chance Vera might fight for the bantamweight title in 2023, for instance, and Aldo largely outclassed him in their bout.
Essentially, Aldo’s brief run at 135 pounds was expected by many to damage his reputation. Instead, if anything, it enhanced it. Then, he hung his gloves up at the perfect time before things could go too far south.
#2. Ronda Rousey – former UFC bantamweight champion
It might not have seemed like it at the time, but with the power of years of hindsight, it’s safe to say that former UFC bantamweight champ Ronda Rousey timed her retirement from MMA perfectly.
‘Rowdy’ famously hung up her gloves after her loss to Amanda Nunes in December 2016, and has not looked back since.
Since her retirement, she has not only started a family with her husband, former UFC star Travis Browne, but she’s also gone onto have a successful professional wrestling career with WWE.
Things could’ve been very different, though. Just over a year before her loss to Nunes, ‘Rowdy’ was arguably the biggest star in the UFC. She regularly pulled in millions of viewers to watch her destroy opponents like Cat Zingano and Bethe Correia in her bantamweight title defenses.
However, when she was knocked out by Holly Holm in late 2015, losing her title in the process, Rousey’s fighting style was somewhat exposed. With her aura of invincibility shattered, it was clear that if an opponent could avoid her takedowns, she was very beatable.
In her bout with Nunes, the Brazilian didn’t even need to stop a takedown. She simply blitzed the apparently ill-prepared Rousey in the opening seconds and put her away with a violent flurry.
What might’ve happened had Rousey stuck around? Despite her natural talent, she most likely would’ve gone onto lose to less heralded opponents, ruining her reputation altogether.
However, while her decision to retire was met with some criticism at the time, in hindsight, it was the right call to make.
Rousey had nothing left to prove in the octagon, and will always be remembered as a pioneer and a legend – and as a fighter who went out on her own terms.
#1. Georges St-Pierre – former UFC welterweight and middleweight champion
The greatest example of a UFC fighter who knew exactly the right time to walk away remains former welterweight and middleweight champion Georges St-Pierre.
Not only did he time his retirement perfectly, but he was also to step away twice, without damaging his legacy at all.
When he first decided to take an extended break – for all intents and purposes, retiring – he’d held the welterweight title for well over five years, making a total of nine successful defenses.
After beating Johny Hendricks in his final defense in late 2013, St-Pierre decided to relinquish his title, citing burnout and exhaustion as his main reasons. Despite Dana White’s best attempts, he would not be swayed, and it looked like fans had seen the last of him.
Had he stayed away at that point, his legacy as perhaps the greatest fighter of all time would’ve been well set. After all, ‘GSP’ had dominated practically three different generations of top welterweights.
However, the Canadian instead returned four years later, promptly defeated middleweight champion Michael Bisping to become one of the UFC’s rare double champions. He then headed right back into retirement.
Some fans were soured by his decision not to defend his newly won title, but had he done that and tasted defeat, his legacy would definitely have been harmed.
As it was, ‘GSP’ left the UFC for the second time with his head held high, and did not suffer a defeat in the final decade of his MMA career. It’s safe to say, then, that he timed his retirement absolutely perfectly.