Way back, we brought up Skip Hall, who at 63 years is the oldest pro MMA fighter on record. Now it looks like Skip is getting ready to hang up the gloves this weekend after a final fight. There’s a pretty awesome article all about him at NBCSports.
One thing I wanted to comment on regarding this story is it shows you that it’s not really about how old you are but in what kind of shape you’re in. And no, I’m not talking about Ken Shamrock suspicious ultra-buff shape. I’m talking about the condition of your body … your knees, your spine, your brain. All that important shit under the hood.
People are always talking about boxers being over the hill past 35, and it seems like there are those who’d like to apply that kind of age to MMA fighters as well. Randy Couture is one of the guys dispelling that myth, but it still hangs in the air over fighters like Chuck Liddell and Matt Hughes, who in my opinion are nowhere near as ‘over the hill’ as many people would like to think.
The reason boxers usually stink past 35 is that they’ve been in the game for so long their brains have been de-calibrated by all those blows to the head. Fractions of a second have been taken off their reflex time, and that’s enough to fuck ’em as far as competing against the younger kids go. In MMA that’s less true, although you’ll see that the guys who have been around forever can be just as banged up.
Ken Shamrock was blaming the majority of his losses on nagging injuries. Bas Rutten has completely given up on trying to compete because his body can’t handle the strain. Mark Kerr was so physically smashed that he practically had an IV full of painkillers on him at all times. These are guys who’s bodies have been destroyed by years of hard fighting and harder training.
There’s no doubt that as you get older it’s harder to keep your body in top condition, and the risk of injury gets higher. But I haven’t seen any evidence thus far that older martial artists are any less sharp than their younger counterparts. If you haven’t spent the last 10-15 years getting hit, slammed, bashed, and broken, there’s no reason you can’t go out there and compete with all those next-gen kids with dumb haircuts. Having guys in their 40’s and 50’s and fuck, even 60’s is fine in my book, so long as they’re healthy. In fact, I’ll take a 60 year old Skip Hall over Ken Shamrock any day.