On Saturday, welterweight MMA veteran Nick Thompson fought former Olympian and rising star Ben Askren at Bellator 40. It was a non-title fight and one that aired on a promotion with some clout, but not a ton. Not yet, anyway. Still, it was an incredibly stiff challenge for Thompson and a very reasonable test for the prospect in Askren.
Without much resistance, Askren controlled Thompson en route to an easy unanimous decision win. Earlier today, Thompson announced he was retiring from the sport. Here is the text of his farewell note post on the UnderGround forum:
I have fought many great fighters, even beating a few along the way. In all those fights, I have never felt as frustrated as I felt tonight. Ben Askren is truly a great wrestler/grappler and I look forward to seeing him develop in the sport. I have been a fan of Ben's since I knew him in high school and am appreciative that Bellator provided me an opportunity for my last fight to be against a fighter for whom I have such tremendous respect.
I love this sport and all that it has given to me and it is with a mix of joy and sadness that I realize that I am no longer willing to pay the price necessary to compete at the level I expect from myself - the level of guys like Ben, Weedman and Heiron. I have reached a point where it is more important to me to spend time at home with my daughter and wife, who have been great about me competing, and focus on developing my law career at O'Flaherty Heim Egan & Birnbaum LTD, which has also been great about me competing. I am grateful for the many wonderful people who supported me and those I met in mixed martial arts, fans and fighters, and am hopeful that I can give something back to the sport I love by coaching and/or representing the next crop of mixed martial arts superstars.
Thompson was my first radio interview ever in MMA. I was losing my job at the station I was in and needed to record a demo. I put a note on the UG asking if anyone was interested in being interviewed. I couldn't offer air time exactly, but I was going to send the clip to hundreds of stations across the country. Thompson, either looking for exposure or practice or both, offered to take part. Looking back it's hard to see the incentive for him. Maybe he was simply doing me a favor.
On the very biggest stages Thompson faltered. He was steamrolled by Jake Shields and brutally beaten by Karo Parisyan. But at big moments or intervals in his career against highly respectable opposition, Thompson made a strong account of himself. He sent Eddie Alvarez to lightweight and outstruck Paul Daley. He also earned enough wins against key opposition to get calls from promoters across the world. And he had the distinct honor
My takeaway from Thompson's career is that a decent athlete who refuses to surrender to unforgiving ordeal of the fighter's life can actually accomplish something very noteworthy in professional MMA. And he or she can do it like Thompson did: without the slightest hint of vanity or pretension.
Thompson earned his nickname "The Goat" from the "fainting goats" phenomenon. His teammates in his early training days mocked him for the ease with which he seemed to get knocked out. But Thompson got better. He kept going to class and kept improving. Along the way, he racked up wins, achievements and distinctions that any combat athlete would be honored to have.
Be proud, Nick. You had a fantastic career. Best of luck to you on the other side. And thanks for the interview. I owe you one.