Long-time MMA veteran Renato ‘Babalu’ Sobral has finally called it quits, announcing his retirement from professional mixed martial arts competition. Sobral made his decision in the aftermath of his TKO loss to Jacob Noe at last night’s Bellator 96 event, which broadcast live on Spike TV.
‘Babalu’ is a pioneer of the sport, having gotten his start back in the vale tudo circuits in his native Brazil. Over the course of a 16-year career, he amassed a respectable record of 37-11 and did battle with some of MMA’s best, including Fedor Emelianenko, Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua, and Dan Henderson. He competed against ‘The Iceman’ Chuck Liddell for the UFC light-heavyweight championship and once reigned as the Strikeforce light-heavyweight champion. Like many of the old-school Brazilian fighters, Sobral brought a certain brand of hot-bloodedness into the MMA arena, a raw passion for fighting that was forged in legendary camps like Chute Boxe, Ruas Vale Tudo, and Brazilian Top Team.
That competitive drive, sadly, has led many of the old guard to stick around for too long. MMA is a young man’s game, and years of hard training, injuries, and physical damage inevitably take their toll. As we often see with an aging fighter in the twilight of his career, Sobral’s chin began to falter in recent years; last night’s TKO loss was the Brazilian’s fourth stoppage from strikes in his last six fights. Noe is decent fighter with heavy hands, but one can’t help but think that a younger, stronger Sobral would have been able to put him away with ease.
And that’s really the bittersweet part about retirement. It’s always sad to see a favorite athlete walk away, but no one likes to see a man keep going so far out of his prime. I’d like to think that ‘Babalu’ will be the last fighter to hang on for too long, but this is a story as old as prize fighting itself. All we can really do is give a final round of applause and remember all the great moments.
Photo credit: Scott Petersen, MMAWeekly.com