Photo: Esther Lin / MMAFighting.com
Rich Clementi discusses his career, modern fighters who turn down fights and his retirement after a successful MMA and UFC career.
Rich Clementi, a veteran of 67 pro fights, recently made the very tough decision to hang up his gloves. As someone who started his career in 1999 and fought in the UFC as early as UFC 41, Clementi still has an "old school" view of the sport.
Those "early days" experiences have given him a somewhat less than flattering view of certain aspects of modern MMA, as made clear in a recent article on MMA Fighting:
"Where you look at where fights are going now, you see guys pulling out left and right," he said. "You see ideal match-ups where he'll fight this guy but not that guy. It's big business now. Back in the day, that's not what it was about. They called you to fight and you did it because that’s what you do. That's why you’re doing this sport. As weird as it sounds, that’s how it was. I just feel like now, it's just over-exploited and some of it's lost. It's almost like basketball where guys don't care. Guys bounce around, there's no loyalty factor to anything, people say anything to promote a fight or produce money or get the next title shot. It's never been about that for me. That part of the sport kind of disgusts me a little bit."
Of course, athletes used to be "loyal" when they didn't have the rights to do anything else. With free agency came players being able to actually look out for their own best interests. For example, the reserve clause in Major League Baseball didn't allow players to ever change teams unless they were traded or released and those players were stuck basically being paid whatever their team offered.
But that's somewhat unimportant here. Clementi somewhat undercut his own point in his next quote, discussing being cut from the UFC after back-to-back losses that came right after a four UFC fight win streak:
"I don't know if I'll ever be able to truly swallow that, to be honest," he said. "I lost a lackluster decision to Gray Maynard. I rarely ever have a boring fight. I think he has a little bit more of a track record in that than me but I felt I was blamed for that. And then in my next fight I went for a takedown on Gleison Tibau and got snagged. I just felt like since I took a few fights back to back as a replacement, I was more of a company guy than that. I was fighting nothing but high-level guys and got cut. I never will really, truly understand it."
So, yes, fighters don't take whatever fights are offered regardless of circumstance (replacement opponents/late notice fights) out of loyalty because the same loyalty is not shown in return.
Regardless, Clementi's career is nothing to be ashamed of, going 5-5 in the UFC, 45-22 and a love for the sport that likely means he'll never fully walk away from the sport.