UFC Fight Night 107 in London might be lacking a few high-profile names, but one storyline everyone should be aware of this weekend is the retirement of one of the UK’s most beloved mixed martial artists, Brad Pickett.
The Londoner may not have won a world title or headlined a major pay-per-view, but Pickett has been at the forefront of UK MMA for a long time and he’s paved the way for younger British stars to follow his lead.
With nearly forty professional fights under his belt, this weekend Pickett’s thirteen-year career will come to a close in a fight he’s aptly named ‘the last dance’.
His record, while turbulent in terms of wins and losses, on paper doesn’t tell the full story of a man that UFC president Dana White once described as one of his favorite fighters to watch. Pickett will always be remembered as a man who put on exciting fights, who never backed down from a challenge and who left the sport with the respect of all his fellow fighters and fans.
Speaking exclusively to The Independent this week, Pickett explained the feelings he had heading into his last bout with Ecuadorian Marlon ‘Chito’ Vera this week. Suffice to say, Pickett wanted to make it clear that he wasn’t thinking about retirement just yet.
“I’m actually doing really well,” Pickett said, when asked how he was handling the emotions on his incoming retirement at today’s UFC Fight Night London media day. “I just keep reminding myself that I ain’t retired now—I’m retiring after Saturday night and right here, right now I’m still an active fighter.
“I’ve got a job to do on Saturday night and I need to stay focused. I’ve got emotional a few times, but it’s never got too much and I’m feeling good ahead of the fight.”
While he may not be ready to think about retirement just yet, Pickett’s fans have been reminding him minute-by-minute about the size of the occasion on Saturday. With his thirteen-year long career set to come to an end, Pickett spoke about why he fought and the different motivations he has compared to other fighters when they step foot inside the UFC Octagon.
“To be honest, it’s really overwhelming,” Pickett said. “I fight for the fans, I’ve always said that and I care. I’m a nice guy in general outside of fighting so why would I come to fight and be like [disrespectful]. I’ve always said I don’t fight because I hate what’s in front of me, I fight because I love what’s behind me and what’s around me—I love the fans and I love the sport.
“Even then when I walked out with my dog and the guys was giving it some—I was like ‘oh come on’. I don’t fight because I hate the guy. Some guys have to do that to get themselves up, but me no, that’s not what I’m about.”
After the media day had drawn to a close, Independent’s own Dan Hardy spoke about the impact Pickett had on the development of UK MMA and spoke glowingly about the Londoner’s contribution to the development of the sport.
“It’s a massive honor, a massive honor,” Hardy said, when asked what it meant to him to be commentating Pickett’s last ever fight. “As a fan, I looked up to him a lot and as a part of this sport I think he’s contributed so much as an athlete.
“I’m excited to be honest that he’s retiring because I think there’s so much more to these young and up and coming fighters. These generations that he’s inspiring, at the moment we’ve got one Brad Pickett, but he puts that knowledge and experience into ten young fighters then we could have ten great fighters coming out of the UK. That’s what we need as sport—we need Brad to be a contributor to the sport and not just an athlete.”