JARAGUA DO SUL, Brazil – After a three-fight stint in the UFC, lightweight John Cholish (8-3 MMA, 1-2 UFC) said he will retire as an active fighter following his loss to Gleison Tibau (27-9 MMA, 12-7 UFC).
Cholish on Saturday was submitted by Tibau at UFC on FX 8, which took place at Arena Jaragua in Jaragua do Sul, Brazil. Just hours before his fight, Cholish announced on his Twitter feed that the fight would be his last, “win, lose, or draw.”
After the loss, Cholish told MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com) that continuing to fight didn’t make sense for him financially.
“I’m fortunate enough that I have a job that provides for me really well,” Cholish said. “I give a lot of these guys credit that fight at this level. I think they could be compensated much better based on the income that the UFC takes in. Fortunately, I can just walk away and I’m OK with it. By no means do I mean it disrespectfully toward any other fighters because I think they do a great job. But hopefully Zuffa and the UFC will start paying them a little better.”
This past week, Cholish told MMAjunkie.com Radio (www.mmajunkie.com/radio) that MMA was just a hobby for him and that his full-time job on Wall Street for a commodities brokerage firm was how he made his money. But it wasn’t until Saturday that he made it known he would be hanging up the gloves.
The New Jersey-based fighter made his primary training home at Renzo Gracie Jiu-Jitsu in New York, and he said he plans to stay active in the sport from a training standpoint.
“I can still train and still have fun and help other guys get ready,” he said. “That will be fun for me. But especially this whole week, it was just a real experience. It was just a little disappointing, the whole process, and having to go through it for what you put on the line, unfortunately. Win, lose or draw, I wanted to put it out first (on Twitter) so people didn’t think if I lost, that was the only thing.
“I had a great ride fighting from little shows all the way up. I never thought I’d get to the UFC, so it’s been a really cool experience.”
In 2007, Cholish made his pro debut with a first-round submission loss. But a little more than a year later, he went on a seven-fight tear that included six stoppages to earn a call from the UFC.
In his seven-fight win streak, he picked up a win for Strikeforce against Marc Stevens, then beat WEC veteran Jameel Massouh four months later before signing with the UFC.
Cholish made his UFC debut at UFC 140 in Toronto in December 2011, where he picked up a second-round TKO of Mitch Clarke to run his win streak to eight. But at UFC on FOX 5 in his native New Jersey, he dropped a unanimous decision to Danny Castillo. After a groin tear sidelined him from a planned December bout against Yves Edwards, he finally returned after a yearlong layoff for Saturday’s second-round guillotine choke loss to Tibau.
“He fought a great fight,” Cholish said. “I couldn’t really get my tempo going. I just kind of went along with his pace, and he was able to capitalize on it.”
Cholish said the relationships formed with coaches and teammates is one thing he’ll miss about the competition side of MMA.
“It was just a great experience,” he said. “You really develop a kind of brotherhood or bond with your coaches, your training partners. At the end of the day, fans look and they just see two guys in a cage. But there’s a whole team. There are training partners, fighters that haven’t even started or are amateurs that contribute to you getting in the cage. It’s sacrifices they make, and I just know I’ve made some lifelong friends and I’m fortunate to be able to do that.”
Still, if fighters at the lower levels made more money, it would be easier for Cholish to stick around. Although his paydays for his losses to Castillo and Tibau won’t be disclosed, Cholish made $4,000 to show and a $4,000 win bonus for his victory over Clarke 18 months ago.
Cholish speculated that after training costs, the money he made for the Tibau fight won’t let him break even.
“At the end of the day, it’s hard,” he said. “I have great coaches that take time off and travel. They deserve money, as well. To be completely honest, on a fight like this, I’m losing money to come down here. Flights, hotel rooms, food – and that doesn’t even cover the cost of the time I have to pay for my coaches for training. It’s funny because people talk about the fighters, but at the same time there’s camps and coaches behind the fighters that you don’t even see. So if a fighter is having a tough time making ends meet, how do you think his coaches are doing?”
Beyond a fighters’ union, Cholish isn’t sure what the solution is for athletes who aren’t headlining cards and are perhaps fighting paycheck to paycheck on the prelims.
Zuffa LLC, which owns the UFC, is a private company and fighters under its banner are essentially treated as independent contractors.
“I don’t know if there is one significant answer,” he said. “And again, this is just my opinion, so there’s no right or wrong. It’s hard because you have top-level guys like Georges St-Pierre, Jon Jones, Anderson Silva that have started off where we started and worked really hard to get there. So is it right for them to have to give up what they did to try and sacrifice for the greater good? It’s an individual sport, at the end of the day. It’s not like you have a whole team that can kind of step away, like in baseball, when the first union started. Only time will tell. (Zuffa is) a private company. Maybe when it goes public at one point?
“I know the Zuffa higher-ups probably aren’t happy with what I’m saying, but I’d like to think I can speak for the lower portion of fighters. A lot of guys I’m sure would love to say the same thing but aren’t in a position where they have another source of income.”
But despite the back-to-back losses and the financial hit that Cholish said he takes for a fight like Saturday’s in Brazil, he wouldn’t rule out a return one day.
The 29-year-old might get the itch, and you never know.
“I love mixed martial arts,” he said. “I love training. … Maybe one day I’ll compete again. I don’t know. We’ll see. It’s been a really cool experience, a fun ride. I have no regrets.”
For complete coverage of UFC on FX 8, stay tuned to the UFC Events section of the site.
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