After losing to Alexander Gustafsson in August of 2011, Matt Hamill retired from his career as a UFC light heavyweight. He'd gone 10-4 in six years as a professional and was troubled by nagging injuries even as he took short notice fights against Quinton Jackson and Gustafsson.
However, Hamill missed the training after a few months of rehab and time off. His trainer, Duff Holmes, gave Ben Fowlkes of MMA Junkie a great explanation of what went on in the Mohawk Valley:
"But the kicker really was that I was encouraging him to get back to the gym and give back," Holmes said. "I said, now that it's over for you, come help out. We've got 20 or 30 guys fighting out of [the Mohawk Valley Mixed Martial Arts] gym right now, so get in here and help these guys out. He did and, little by little, he was coming in to coach, and then soon he was coming in to train. We saw that metamorphosis from coach back to fighter."
By January, Hamill had begun talking about returning to the cage. He'd left on good terms with the UFC, so the door was still open. He'd rehabbed his shoulder without surgery, and his body was finally starting to feel good again. He started tugging on Holmes' sleeve, bugging him to call up the UFC and ask about getting him a fight. He'd been retired less than half a year. Holmes told him to wait it out, to see if the fire was still there in a few months "because this is not something you can half-ass."
After the jump is one more tasty quote, but please show Mr. Fowlkes your appreciation of his work by giving him some pageviews: http://mmajunkie.com/news/30495/after-walking-away-matt-hamill-finds-new-inspiration-for-his-return-to-mma-at-ufc-152.mma
For the joke police, I am deaf - and have bumped into Mr. Hamill many times in Smallbany - so I believe I can make this headline joke this once. Hamill even came out at UFC 130 to Can't You Hear Me Knocking - one of my favorite songs ever and such a great deaf joke too.
I wondered if Hamill had a scene like this old chestnut of a deaf joke after his retirement:
A 92 year old man who was going deaf went to the doctor to get a physical. A few days later the doctor saw the man walking down the street with a gorgeous young lady on his arm.
At the man's next appointment, the doctor said, "You're really doing great, aren't you?"
The man replied, "Just doing what you said, 'Get a hot mama and be cheerful.'"
The doctor said, "I didn't say that. I said you got a heart murmur. Be careful."
Matt did get married... Anyways, back to the actual MMA stuff.
As Fowlkes says in the article, Hamill does indeed have investments going and he is a part-owner of the Blu 82 bar on Pearl Street in Albany (among other ventures). This is probably not a return driven by hard economic times and Hamill goes on to explain his motives even further.
"Walking away without getting to where I wanted to be, I feel like I let my grandfather down," Hamill said. "... I'm finally healthy and hungry, and I got that way by taking a little break from MMA and working with the rest of the team at Mohawk Valley. Working with those guys really inspired me to want to come back. I know at 35, if I'm going to do it I've got to come back now."
But that begs the question, where exactly does he want to be? Where can he be, as a fighter in his mid-30s who's already retired once? His original return bout was supposed to be against UFC newcomer Roger Hollett, but after an injury forced Hollett from the bout he was replaced with Vladimir Matyushenko, a fellow wrestler who is six years Hamill's senior and, with 15 years of MMA experience, a true journeyman's journeyman.
It's not the kind of fight that vaults you into a title shot, and even if it did, Hamill doesn't consider his disqualification win over light heavyweight champion Jon Jones to be anything but a loss. Hamill and Holmes estimate that he could have anywhere between five and 10 fights left in him, if he stays healthy - and, according to Holmes, now that Hamill has finally learned that there's such a thing as going too hard in practice, and that hanging sheet rock between practice sessions probably isn't such a great idea, that's a possibility.