UFC Lightweight, Mark Bocek shocked fans and media last week when at the ripe old age of 32, he announced his retirement from MMA. Unlike so many before him, Mark ended his career on a win, having last fought in April and earning a split decision win over Mike De La Torre.With a solid resume and plenty of years left in the tank, why retire?
Bocek cites rampant PED abuse as his major cause for concern and ultimate retirement. In a recent interview with MMA Junkie, he discussed the problems the sport has with cheaters.
"I'm a realistic person, and I look at it like I could do all the PEDs on the planet and still be able to compete with guys, but if I don't, it's just not going to happen," Bocek told MMAjunkie. "I'd rather go out like this with a good memory of the sport. I didn't want to leave with a sour feeling on the sport, with a loss, with hating the sport. So I guess the difference between me and everyone is I'm just a little more realistic. In the end, not everybody becomes the champion."
"I think it's worse than people realize," Bocek said. "I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but the way things are going, you kind of deserve to lose if you're not on PEDs nowadays. I used to think of it as cheating, but you can't call it cheating when everyone is doing it. You go in there and lose to someone on PEDs, it's like, what did you expect? Did you think you were going to knock out some guy on PEDs in the highest MMA league in the world? People get away with cheating in the Olympics, which has much stricter testing than in the UFC, so you can imagine what people get away with in the UFC.
"I can't put numbers on it. I've trained at the top five MMA camps on the planet, but I'd never mention any names. There are genetic freaks out there. There are always exceptions. But look at Tour de France. If you want a clean guy, let's go down to No. 28. There are fighters that don't use, but the way the sport's highly evolved now, the clean guys are getting farther and fewer between."
In addition to the ever-increasing problems with PED abuse in the sport, Mark says that the physical demands of weight cutting were also taking a toll on him. He feels that the sport could do with more weight divisions, especially considering athletes, including himself, sometimes make cuts that are on average between 30-35 pounds.
"Weight-cutting played a major role," Bocek said. "The sport could use more weight classes. Getting down to 155, that's a disaster for me. That's 30, 35 pounds every single time, and I basically have to get on the brink of hospitalization and then compete optimally 24 hours later. I could never drop to a lower weight class, 145, or I would die. If I fought at 170 - I train with Georges, and I train with Rory (MacDonald) - I know how big those guys are. I feel tiny compared to them."
The final component in his retirement decision came down to a lack of motivation to fight as much as he used to. He points to recently retired, former UFC Lightweight champion, Jens Pulver as an example of how not to end an MMA career, stating,
"With everything that has happened, my motivation dropped a little," Bocek said. "Once your motivation drops, you're stupid if you take an MMA fight. I wanted to end my career in the UFC. I didn't want to lose a fight, get cut, fight again in a lower show and lose, then retire hating MMA. I always wanted to be a champion, but I'm not going to sit around to be a stepping stone for others."
"I didn't want to fight in some small shows and end up like Jens (Pulver)," Bocek said. "I really looked up to him, and he didn't have to take those fights, but in the end, what else is there for a fighter? A lot of guys in MMA don't have a life outside of it. You see guys like Jens fighting when they shouldn't be fighting. I hope that type of thing doesn't happen to more fighters because they put all their eggs in one basket, and in the end, only one person gets to become world champion. So many elements have to sync harmoniously together to get that championship athlete."
So what happens now? What does a retired MMA fighter do after devoting all of their adult life to their craft? Bocek says he'll most likely open a gym...or start dropping applications at McDonald's.
"It's tough since there's not much for fighters out there," Bocek said. "I'll either make a gym work, or I'll have to start applying at McDonald's. These past 15 years when everyone is acquiring their degrees, I'm training and fighting. My only degree is in jiu-jitsu and fighting, so if a gym doesn't work out for me, I'm in a lot of trouble."
As a Mark Bocek fan, I wish him all the best in his future endeavors. For me, he was a treat to watch in competition.
You can follow Mark via his Twitter account, @MarkBocek