It's incredibly easy for fans to treat their favorite athletes like they know and understand them intimately. Personal and professional decisions become open season for comment, when a figure lives even a small portion of their life in the public eye. Few decisions seem to draw as much public interest or advice as when a fighter should hang up his gloves. Everyone, it seems, except the fighter in question, knows exactly when it's best for fighters to walk away.
Pat Barry, Jens Pulver, and Mike Pyle recently spoke to MMAJunkie about the messages they've received from fans, asking, pleading, and even telling them to retire. Here's what Barry had to say:
"People tell you, ‘Come on man, you've got to stop,'" Barry said. "But what do you care? Don't you want to see people get bludgeoned out there? Don't you want to see people get high-kicked unconscious? Isn't that what you're watching these highlights and stuff for? And yeah, they do want to see that. So why do you suddenly care about me now?"
"That's the commitment we made the first day we walked in the gym," Barry said. "Everyone who makes that commitment, decides they want to pursue this, they know that this means imminent, abrupt danger right now, but it also means that maybe when I'm 70 the Cheick Kongo punch comes back to haunt me. Am I aware of that? Yes. Do I worry about it? No."
Pulver, for his part, was grateful for fans showing their concern, but no more mindful of it, while Pyle highlighted his ongoing love for the sport and competition. Eventually, however, the message was pretty unanimous: Thanks for your concern, but no thanks. It may seem like a cavalier position for fans genuinely concerned about their favorite fighter's well being, but for a lot of fighters it just ends up coming off as a patronizing "I know better than you." Check out the whole article, as both Pulver and Pyle had a lot of interesting things to say about why they still fight.