Jeff Curran had made up his mind, but didn't want to leave any doubts that his decision to end his 17-year professional fighting career just before midnight Friday night wasn't made on the spur of the moment.
So on Thursday – a day before the 35-year-old Curran dropped a split decision loss to Pedro Munhoz for the Resurrection Fighting Alliance bantamweight championship – he sent a text message to Brian Butler, the managing partner at Sucker Punch sports management.
"I am retiring from fighting after tomorrow and hope I can leave this sport a world champion on a win streak," Curran wrote. "I don't want the public to know yet, but figured we should have some pre-fight evidence :) I know u will keep it straight. Now don't miss tomorrow night!!! God is going into this one with me."
Curran's decision to retire after 53 professional fights didn't come easily. But he could no longer justify the abuse his body took. He had grown tired of the politics surrounding mixed martial arts fighting and wasn't willing to sacrifice missing his kids grow up in exchange for another grueling training camp.
At first, Curran informed only a few people – including his wife Sarah – of his decision. In the days leading up to Friday night's five-round championship fight in Carson, Calif., he told 10-15 more. Occasionally, he wavered back and forth, leaving the door open to keep fighting if UFC officials offered him a spot back in the sport's top promotion if he could beat Munhoz.
But deep down, Curran knew this was it.
"I felt like it was time – win or lose," Curran said. "... I've accepted that I've had a really great career, being ranked No. 2 (in the world) a couple of times, fighting for world titles is going to have to be enough. I never wanted it to be enough, but it's going to have to be.
"I have to move on."
Two weeks before his 36th birthday, Curran's body was telling him it was time. He suffers from arthritis in his hands, feet, knees and elbow. He has put off shoulder and elbow surgery and had taken a lot of punches – both in the octagon and in training camp sessions. With a family and a Crystal Lake MMA training business to run, Curran couldn't consider a future taking more punishment than he already had.
"I just don't want to be that retired fighter that can't articulate and think and talk," Curran said. "I don't want any trauma-induced Alzheimer's type of stuff or dementia."
Curran said he didn't have any firm commitment from UFC officials to bring him back, saying that even with a win over Munhoz, he likely would have had to wait another 18 months to be considered to appear in another UFC event. In his mind, Curran knew he couldn't wait that long, making his decision to retire with a final record of 36-16-1 easier to deal with.
Those around Curran said they could see retirement coming although the 35-year-old fighter never brought the subject up. Curran said he knew Friday's fight would likely be his last when he signed the contract to face the undefeated Munhoz at RFC 9 earlier this summer. But as Curran walked to the ring Friday night, his cousin – reigning Belator featherweight World Champion Pat Curran – said he knew this trip would be special just because it was his last.
"It was definitely emotional, it was hard – not just losing the fight but knowing that he was retiring and knowing this is it," Pat Curran said Monday. "A win would have been great, but it still would have been emotional knowing this was his last fight."
"It's just such a huge life change, but he's ready to start a new chapter of his life."
Since announcing his retirement in the moments immediately following Friday's loss, Curran said his decision has come with some reflection. After suffering a broken orbital bone, broken nose and broken hand in the fight, Curran said the long trip back from Los Angeles has given him time to consider life without a fight on his calendar for the first time in nearly 20 years.
"I have all this work to do, I know what I have to do with my business, but it's so different to approach it without that fight on the schedule," Curran said. "It makes me really sad, I've got to be honest. I'm going to be strong and I'm not going to let it bring me down or get in the way of my happiness, but it's sad."