Ricardo Almeida announces his retirement from MMA, will continue as a coach

via cdn3.sbnation.com

The "Big Dog" is headed home -- this time for good.

Ricardo Almeida, after an 11-year career as a professional mixed martial artist, has made the decision to retire from the sport following his loss to Mike Pyle at UFC 128 on March 19.

The Brazilian-American began his career in Dec. 2000 with a victory under the now defunct PRIDE banner before going on to become the Middleweight King of Pancrase.

Training under the tutelage of Renzo Gracie, the Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt amassed a 6-5 record with the UFC, somehow always on the cusp of greatness, but never quite reaching the top of the mountain.

Almeida had previously left the sport in 2004 to take a four-year hiatus to focus on his other passion -- running his jiu-jitsu academy in New Jersey. Now, after three more years and an additional eight fights, he's finally ready to move on to the next phase of his life.

Here's what he had to say about his decision to retire (via NewJerseyJiuJitsu.com):

Back in 2008 I decided to return to MMA. Since then I have had the privilege of fighting eight times in the UFC. As a competitor I can think of no bigger thrill than to stand in the center of the octagon with my hands raised.

During these almost four years it has been a personal struggle to find balance between my fighting career, caring for my son who was diagnosed with autism soon after I signed a six-fight deal with the UFC, teaching at my growing Jiu Jitsu Academy and the family duties we all have.

MMA is a great sport but also physically and mentally unforgiving. It is a dangerous task to step in the octagon, specially if your focus is not at 100%.

After much deliberation since my fight at UFC 128 I have decided to step away from the sport as a fighter.

I will continue to fully support the UFC as a coach and of course as a big fan. I would like to thank Lorenzo Fertitta and Dana White for their leadership and vision which brought the sport to new heights. I would also like to thank Joe Silva for giving me the opportunity to compete among the best martial artists in the world.

Renzo Gracie, Mark Henry, Frankie Edgar and all my teammates who I could not have gone through this challenge without.

Finally I would like to thank my wife, children and family as well as my students. You will have my integral dedication from here on.

Lastly the fans who make MMA the greatest sport there is.

Ricardo Almeida."

Almeida, at the age of 34 years-old, will retire a veteran of PRIDE, Pancrase and the UFC with a combined record of 13 wins to 5 losses.

While the New York native will be gone from active competition, he will certainly not be forgotten for his extensive list of accomplishments both as a fighter and a grappler.

Feel free to share any pics, gifs or stories you may have involving "Big Dog" in the comments below.

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