Often in the UFC and MMA as a whole, athletes don't get the chance to retire on their own terms, only leaving the sport as battered, beaten veterans who stayed for way too long.
There are very rare occasions, however, when fighters leave the scene before they have fully fleshed out their story arcs and accomplished what they're capable of.
There are a few names in the UFC that stand out when it comes to fighters that retired way too soon. On that note, let's take a look at five UFC fighters who retired way too early.
#5 Jimmy Flick
Last week, up-and-coming star Jimmy Flick suddenly announced that he's retiring from MMA. His decision shocked fans as Jimmy Flick hasn't even scratched the surface of what he's capable of doing inside the octagon.
In an earnest conversation with Mike Heck of MMAFighting Radio, Jimmy Flick shared that he chose to walk away from the sport so that he can spend more time with his family:
"You don't bring much in, but you keep striving for more and you keep striving for more but I keep losing more time with my family. I keep losing more time with my wife. In five years, if I reach that UFC goal, do I have what I want more than life? Do I have my girls? Do I have my wife?"
After collecting three straight submission wins, Jimmy Flick made a splashy UFC debut after he, yet again, scored a submission win – putting Cody Durden away via a spectacular flying triangle choke.
Jimmy Flick was supposed to fight Francisco Figueiredo – brother of UFC flyweight champ Deiveson Figueiredo – on May 8. But at the moment, Flick is focusing on writing an autobiography which he promised to release soon.
#4 Alexander Gustafsson
Alexander Gustafsson's career is a classic sports tragedy in the sense that he came so close to winning the UFC light heavyweight title multiple times just to come up short in the end.
Alexander Gustafsson gave then-long-time UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones the toughest test of his career at UFC 163 in 2013. However, Gustafsson fell on the wrong side of a razor thin split decision.
Two years later, Alexander Gustafsson would lose to Anthony 'Rumble' Johnson in a title eliminator fight and was edged by Daniel Cormier in a split decision for the vacant light heavyweight belt.
In 2016, Gustafsson enjoyed a career resurgence, scoring back-to-back wins against a young Jan Blachowicz and Glover Teixeira to earn a championship rematch against Jones. But again, 'The Mauler' fell short as he suffered a TKO loss at the hands of Jones.
After two more losses against Anthony Smith and Fabricio Werdum, Alexander Gustafsson gave up on his life-long quest of becoming a UFC champion and called it a career.
#3 Georges St-Pierre
After amassing 12 straight wins, including nine consecutive successful title defenses, Georges St-Pierre announced that he was taking a prolonged break from cage fighting.
An argument can be made that Georges St-Pierre retired at the exact right moment. His final title defense against Johny Hendricks ended in a controversial split decision that many thought the challenger should have won.
However, Georges St-Pierre's 2017 return from a four-year absence in the UFC proved just how much he had left in the tank. That said, an argument can also be made that Georges St-Pierre could have held on to the welterweight title for three more years, or even gone up to middleweight and started a new reign of terror.
#2 Ronda Rousey
Ronda Rousey was a supernova. She was the UFC's brightest star at her peak, but she burned out just as suddenly as she rose to prominence.
To be clear, Ronda Rousey was never going to get the UFC bantamweight title back even if she had decided to stay in the octagon. However, what she could have had is a graceful exit from the UFC – one that's befitting a beloved champion and a trailblazer for women's sports.
Holly Holm and Amanda Nunes totally exposed Rousey's lack of ability in the striking department. It's very unfortunate, however, that Ronda Rousey didn't get the opportunity to improve her stand-up game to a level where she could have had a decent performance against the likes of Holm and Nunes.
#1 Khabib Nurmagomedov
Khabib Nurmagomedov was simply unstoppable. After collecting 29 wins with zero losses, Khabib decided to hang his MMA gloves up for good.
During his eight-year stint in the UFC, no fighter has ever given the Dagestani any serious trouble. Khabib Nurmagomedov holds notable wins against former UFC champions Conor McGregor and Rafael dos Anjos as well as lightweight stars Dustin Poirier and Justin Gaethje.
To be fair, Khabib thoroughly cleaned out his division before calling it a career. But a much-anticipated matchup between him and Tony Ferguson never came to fruition. Khabib and Ferguson were scheduled to clash on two different occasions. Both fights, however, had to be canceled due to injuries.
Now that Khabib is retired and Ferguson is floundering, a dream match between the two will go down as one of the biggest what-ifs in UFC history.