MMA is rooted in tough guy (and girl) rhetoric. Biting down on the mouthpiece and moving forward through the pain while nu metal blares in the background. But, behind the scenes, the sport is full of sacrifices and pain. As they say, the real fight is leading up to the battle in the cage. Months of hard work leads to a moment in which you can feel the ultimate glory, or be staring up at the ceiling.
Tonight, in London, long-time, trailblazing bantamweight and featherweight Brad Pickett fought in front of his hometown crowd for the final time. After nearly 15 years in the cage, he was hanging up his gloves.
In front of him was Marlon Vera, who took the fight on just seven days notice. Vera wasn’t without his own story. He’s been trying to scrap by, taking risky, short-notice fights to help pay for his ill daughter’s medical care. You really couldn’t write this stuff. It would be too corny.
But here we were in London, with Pickett looking for the big shot for the entire fight. Vera was able to keep “One Punch” on the outside with some crafty kicks and knees, and Pickett eventually got a few key takedowns and was looking to be up two rounds, until a high kick took him out.
It was an incredibly emotional ending. Both men were crying, and Pickett felt the stoppage was early, but eventually gathered himself and thanked Vera and the UFC for an incredible career. He didn’t go out on a win, but as Dan Hardy said, it didn’t matter. He has given it all in the cage, and a loss means nothing. No one thinks lesser of Pickett.
And in the end, instead of leaving his gloves in the Octagon, he left his hat.