New Jersey-based lightweight Kurt Pellegrino announced his semi-retirement on his website today, possibly capping off what has been a long and fruitful career in the sport. For fans who’ve followed him from the beginning – from the days he scrapped his way through the regional shows and on into the UFC – it’s a bittersweet declaration. Like Frankie Edgar and Matt Serra, “Batman” was a Northeast star who you always knew was destined for greatness. And he achieved much of that greatness in the wars that earned him honors inside the Octagon. Pellegrino summed it up best himself:
I am very proud of what I have accomplished over the past eleven years in this sport. I was able to do all the things that I set out to do, which includes achieving a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, competing in the world championship Abu Dhabi tournament, and fighting all over the world including Japan and of course in the top MMA organization in the world, the UFC, for five years and 12 fights. Of those twelve fights I was awarded five ‘Fight of the Night’ and ‘Submission of the Night’ honors and for that I am proud.
But all good things must come to an end at some point, and Father Time is a cold bastard, even if what time brings is success. For the past few years his talents as a coach and teacher had him cornering more and more fighters, and after Pellegrino tore his ACL, you could see his frustration when he’d hobble around at local shows to shout instructions, an athlete impeded by his own battle-worn body. His knee did heal up enough for him to face Gleison Tibau at UFC 128 in Newark, though, healed up enough for a split decision to slip through his grasp. There has to be frustration there for that, too.
In 2003, I watched Pellegrino submit a Tasmanian Devil named Jay Isip, and for years after he’d headline cards and defeat fighters imported from Russia and Japan or from elsewhere in the States. The way the crowds screamed and cheered, it was like watching a rockstar perform. And sure, maybe Pellegrino will come back to MMA competition – he certainly left the door open for it in his announcement. But maybe he won’t. Either way, the badass wrestler-turned-jiu-jitsu guy-turned elite MMA competitor seems cool with it. So, too, should we be. Batman’s given us some great fights, a feat most will never realize. He deserves a rest.
He’s more than earned it.