They say combat sports are a young man’s game. While that is certainly true to some extent, there are more than a handful of fighters who have given Father Time a good scrap. Not everyone who has entered the cage is blessed with the gift of youth. Some fighters have chosen to fight well past their primes, and still turn in vintage performances.
These athletes have proven that there are no odds too great to overcome and that they only get better with age, just like fine wine. While it’s true that martial arts does favor the faster, the more powerful, and the more energetic, veterans make the case that experience plays a huge factor too. Experience, in fact, is the x-factor.
The cage is a place where one discovers their true physical and mental capabilities. Competition at the highest level is always a beauty to behold. But what happens when fighters fight on past their prime and overstay their welcome? The answer isn’t always great.
But in those very rare moments that they are, some fighters produce fantastic results — results that leave you no opportunity to call them old. They just simply defy time and logic.
Let’s take a look at those fighters today and their amazing achievements. Today, Evolve Daily shares five mixed martial arts stars who proved age is nothing but a number.
1) Renzo Gracie
Who would have thought that the legend himself, Renzo Gracie would come out of an eight-year retirement to compete again? Even though he constantly said himself in previous interviews that his return to fighting was inevitable, fans would never believe it until they saw it.
Last July 2018, at ONE Championship’s “Reign of Kings” event in Manila, 51-year-old Renzo Gracie made a grand return to action. He faced equal veteran Yuki “Sora” Kondo, who himself is a 43-year-old fighter, and the two put on an absolute show.
He took a little time to shake off the cage rust, however, but in true Gracie fashion, Renzo finished with a slick submission. He took Kondo’s back in the second round and squeezed his neck with a rear naked choke, Gracie-style.
2) Anderson Silva
For the longest time, Anderson Silva was known as the baddest man in mixed martial arts, and for good reason. He was feared for his uncanny striking ability, moved like he was in The Matrix and could see his opponent’s attack as if it were in bullet-time slow motion.
A former professional boxer and Muay Thai practitioner, Silva used his hands and feet to terrorize his foes with laser precision. But eventually, Father Time came and took his powers away from him. He succumbed to Chris Weidman twice and then lost to Michael Bisping and Daniel Cormier to cap his four-fight losing streak.
At 43 years of age, not many thought Silva would ever be victorious in the cage again. But in February 2017, “The Spider” put together an impressive performance which earned him a victory against Derek Brunson, who is nearly 10 years younger than him.
3) Yoel Romero
There is perhaps no mixed martial artist greater than the age of 40 who is in better condition than Cuba’s Yoel Romero. The man who calls himself “Soldier of God” looks physically divine, and an absolute beast at middleweight.
He doesn’t just look strong too, he’s also incredibly powerful and ferocious in the cage. Very few fighters can stand up to Romero’s powerful hands, aggressiveness, and offensive repertoire. And not many can handle his world-class wrestling.
At 41 years old, Romero is one of the UFC’s top middleweights and is always in the running for a shot at the title. Although he dropped his last bout to champion Robert Whittaker, Romero has won five of his last seven bouts, all against big-name opponents including Tim Kennedy, Lyoto Machida, Jacare Souza, and Chris Weidman.
4) Georges St. Pierre
Not many people believed he could make a successful comeback to the Octagon, but in November of 2017, Georges St-Pierre proved naysayers completely wrong.
At 36 years of age, GSP isn’t what you would call a young fighter. He has been in so many cage wars throughout his career and looked absolutely a shell of himself when he semi-retired in 2013 after narrowly escaping Johny Hendricks. After overcoming his greatest challenge, GSP announced that he would step away from competition, and he did just that.
But four years away from fighting, GSP felt the itch to compete and announced a comeback in 2016. A year later, he would return to take on Michael Bisping for the UFC Middleweight World Title. In a vintage performance, GSP turned back the clock and put together a third-round submission victory for the ages.
5) Angela Lee
Last but certainly not the least, is reigning ONE Women’s Atomweight World Champion “Unstoppable” Angela Lee from the Evolve Fight Team. While not in the twilight of her career like the other great names on this list, Lee is doing the exact opposite and proving that you can never be too young to be great.
In 2016, Lee became the youngest mixed martial arts world champion in history at the age of 19, defeating Japanese veteran Mei “V.V” Yamaguchi at home in Singapore at ONE Championship: Ascent to Power.
Lee put together an amazing performance, showing class and poise well beyond her years, beating a veteran who represented her toughest test yet. She proved that age is nothing but a number and to this day, reigns supreme as one of the most dominant champions in ONE Championship.