This week saw a piece of surprising news for the UFC, as it was announced that Brazilian veterans Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira will be facing off for the third time at UFC 250 in May.
Despite the legendary status of both men, neither has been on the best run as of late; Shogun is coming off a draw with Paul Craig that many fans felt he deserved to lose, while Nogueira was most recently knocked out in violent fashion by Ryan Spann.
At 38 and 43 years old respectively, if we’re frank there are serious question marks over whether either man should still be competing in the world’s biggest MMA promotion – but it’s hardly surprising that they are. After all, we’ve seen plenty of top MMA fighters hang on and continue to fight for way too long in the past.
Here are 5 once-great fighters who held on for too long.
#1 BJ Penn
Still arguably the best Lightweight champion in UFC history, BJ Penn ruled the 155lbs division with an iron fist from 2008 to 2010, defending his title against dangerous contenders like Kenny Florian and Diego Sanchez.
But when he lost his title to Frankie Edgar at UFC 112, a move back to 170lbs – where he’d won the UFC Welterweight title in 2004 – didn’t go so well. A win over Matt Hughes led to a controversial draw with Jon Fitch, and when he was then beaten badly by Nick Diaz at UFC 137, ‘The Prodigy’ hung up his gloves.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t the last time we’d see Penn in UFC action – not by a long shot. His initial retirement lasted just over a year before he returned to take a severe beating at the hands of Rory MacDonald, and another “retirement” ended just as quickly with the Hawaiian returning to lose in a third fight with Edgar, this time at 145lbs.
Things didn’t end there, though, and Penn continued to fight – and bizarrely, the UFC continued to book him despite him being clearly miles past his prime. After some nasty legal issues reared their head in late 2019, ‘The Prodigy’ was finally released by the promotion – but only after losing his last 7 fights in one-sided fashion, basically ruining his legacy.