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5 UFC fighters who returned from retirement and struggled

Miesha Tate has announced her return to the UFC from retirement, but will she succeed or struggle?
Miesha Tate has announced her return to the UFC from retirement, but will she succeed or struggle?
Scott Newman
SENIOR ANALYST
Modified 25 Mar 2021
Top 5 / Top 10

In a shocking turn of events last night, former UFC Women’s Bantamweight champion Miesha Tate announced that she’s returning to action after retiring in late 2016.

Miesha Tate will join a number of fighters who returned to the UFC after retirement, but a great number of them ended up struggling. Will ‘Cupcake’ make a triumphant return? Or will she damage her legacy as some other fighters did?

Here are five fighters who returned from retirement to the UFC and struggled.


#1 BJ Penn (UFC record: 12-13-2)

BJ Penn suffered a string of losses when he returned from retirement, damaging his UFC legacy in the process
BJ Penn suffered a string of losses when he returned from retirement, damaging his UFC legacy in the process

Perhaps no other UFC fighter did more damage to their legacy when they returned from retirement than BJ Penn.

Penn became the UFC Welterweight champion in 2004, and later went onto win the UFC Lightweight title in 2008. In his run as champion, he defended the UFC Lightweight title successfully on three occasions and was widely recognised as one of the greatest lower-weight fighters of all time.

However, the wheels fell off once he lost his title to Frankie Edgar in 2010. ‘The Prodigy’ failed to regain it in a rematch, and then moved to Welterweight for a run, knocking out Matt Hughes and drawing with Jon Fitch.

But Penn’s next fight saw him suffer a one-sided loss to Nick Diaz, after which he decided to hang up the gloves.

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A year later, however, the Hawaiian was back – only to suffer another bad loss at the hands of Rory MacDonald.

This time Penn’s retirement lasted almost two years, but in 2014, he was back for another bad loss to Edgar. Following this, he returned in 2017, only to lose another four fights in a row before being released by the UFC.

All told, Penn really should’ve stayed retired after he initially hung the gloves up in 2011.


#2 Alexander Gustafsson (UFC record: 10-7)

Alexander Gustafsson
Alexander Gustafsson's UFC comeback didn't go as planned as he lost to Fabricio Werdum

Alexander Gustafsson came as close as anyone to dethroning former UFC Light-Heavyweight champion Jon Jones when they fought at UFC 163 in 2013.

And even after coming up short, ‘The Mauler’ was widely recognised as one of the best 205lbers in the world, and picked up big wins over the likes of Jan Blachowicz and Glover Teixeira.

But following his loss to Jones in a rematch at UFC 232, it was clear that Gustafsson wasn’t the same fighter he once was.

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Injuries had taken their toll, particularly a back problem sustained in 2016. And when he was defeated in an upset by Anthony Smith in 2019, the Swede left his gloves inside the Octagon, signalling his retirement.

However, just a few months later, UFC President Dana White stated that he’d spoken to Gustafsson about a possible return – but when it didn’t happen right away, it seemed his retirement would stick.

That wasn’t the case, though. ‘The Mauler’ did return from retirement in July 2020, moving up to Heavyweight for the first time.

However, he didn’t look in good physical shape in his new weight class, and it came as no surprise to see him submitted by opponent Fabricio Werdum.

Since then no return date has been given for Gustafsson, who hopefully has now decided to retire for good.


#3 Carlos Condit (UFC record: 9-9)

Carlos Condit has struggled since returning to the UFC from retirement in 2018
Carlos Condit has struggled since returning to the UFC from retirement in 2018

Once one of the most feared Welterweights in the UFC, Carlos Condit's career peaked in early 2012, when he defeated Nick Diaz to claim the interim UFC Welterweight title.

Condit would lose that title in a unification fight with Georges St. Pierre later that year, but remained one of the UFC’s top Welterweights afterwards.

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He went onto classic fights with the likes of Johny Hendricks, Martin Kampmann and Thiago Alves, and by 2016, was back in title contention.

However, after coming out on the wrong end of a narrow decision in an incredible title fight with champion Robbie Lawler, Condit was then defeated in one-sided fashion by Demian Maia.

The loss, coupled with the damage he’d taken over the years, forced ‘The Natural Born Killer’ into retirement, a decision that most fans agreed with.

16 months later, though, Condit was back, facing Neil Magny at UFC 219.

However, he simply didn’t look like the same fighter at all, and was comfortably beaten. And from there, he also lost in one-sided fights to Alex Oliveira and Michael Chiesa.

Condit is currently on a two-fight winning streak, but he isn’t close to the great fighter he once was, and at 36 years old, should probably consider retiring again.


#4 Matt Brown (UFC record: 15-12)

Matt Brown has struggled for any kind of traction in the UFC since his 2018 return
Matt Brown has struggled for any kind of traction in the UFC since his 2018 return

While he never challenged for the UFC Welterweight title, from his debut in 2007 to his initial retirement in 2017, Matt Brown was renowned as one of the UFC’s most exciting fighters.

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‘The Immortal’ was part of classic wars with fighters like Robbie Lawler, Erick Silva and Donald Cerrone. And when he hung up his gloves following a win over Diego Sanchez, it was great to see him ride off into the sunset off the back of a win.

However, a year later, at the age of 38, Brown returned to the UFC, facing fellow veteran Ben Saunders at UFC 232.

Brown won that fight handily, but when he was faced with prospect Miguel Baeza in 2020, it quickly became apparent that he was over the hill. ‘The Immortal’ fell to a second round KO in a fight he was never really in, and has since gone on to lose to Carlos Condit.

Essentially, it would’ve been best for him if the final memory of him in the Octagon had been his KO of Sanchez.


#5 Urijah Faber (UFC record: 11-7)

Urijah Faber took a horrible beating at the hands of Petr Yan in his second return fight
Urijah Faber took a horrible beating at the hands of Petr Yan in his second return fight

One of the greatest fighters to never hold a UFC title, Urijah Faber initially announced his retirement in 2016 and it felt like great timing. ‘The California Kid’ was 37 years old, and looked past his best in losses to Dominick Cruz and Jimmie Rivera.

His final fight was booked on a show in his hometown – Sacramento, California – against an opponent also on the verge of retirement in Brad Pickett.

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Faber won the fight by decision and looked to ride off into the sunset with his reputation and legacy intact.

Naturally, though, the competitive instincts still remained in him, and at the age of 40, ‘The California Kid’ announced a 2019 return to the UFC.

His first fight back went relatively well – he KO’d Ricky Simon in just 46 seconds, although there were some question marks over the referee’s stoppage.

However, his second fight was horrendous, as he suffered probably the worst beating of his entire MMA career at the hands of future UFC Bantamweight champion Petr Yan.

Realistically, it was the kind of beating a 40-year-old should never have to take, and really, Faber should’ve just stayed retired.

Right now he hasn’t been linked to a future fight, but as he hasn’t officially retired again, there’s every chance we see him return.


Published 25 Mar 2021, 15:52 IST
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