Photo via Utica Daily News
Things are never exactly what they seem.
Behind all the smiles, all the interviews bristling with confidence, Matt Hamill was being torn apart by injuries suffered through nearly 30 years of non-stop training.
To the surprise of many, "The Hammer" retired from the sport earlier this month at 34 years old after receiving a second round thrashing from upstart Swedish prospect Alexander Gustafsson on UFC 133 undercard.
Hamill and his head trainer Duff Holmes were special guests on last night's edition of Pro MMA Radio where they delved deeper into his decision to retire as well as what The Ultimate Fighter season three alumni plans on doing next.
A coach sees his fighter on the best days and the absolute worst. Duff Holmes wasn't afraid to be brutally honest about why the former Deaflympic gold medalist wrestler called it quits, but he didn't say Hamill was done forever either.
"Well it's been coming. To be completely honest, Matt started his career at 28 years old, never even stepping inside the cage before, never even training one lick of mixed martial arts. He came in as a pure wrestler, was coming two tours with the Olympics, was coming out of Colorado Springs getting ready. That kind of training, his whole life from five years old all the way up to 28, all he did was wrestle. When he went on to The Ultimate Fighter, he was already a little bit banged up so, as you saw, he left The Ultimate Fighter due to injury and then from there, it just kind of spiraled down. Every single fight, every training camp, we were working around some sort of an injury. His body just wasn't giving it to him anymore. He's had nine knee surgeries, he's had trouble with his shoulders, he's had pinched nerves in his neck, he's had bad problems with his ankles. He's been banged up but the fact that he was able to push through it and train to beat the guys that he did was just unbelievable.
After 'Rampage.' he mentioned, he thought, 'maybe this is it for me, maybe I want to walk away,' and it was his daughter that said, 'no daddy, you're gonna do this one more time. You've got to give it at least one more shot just so you know for sure.' We liked the idea, we said, 'let's take a fight on short notice. That way we don't have to beat you up in training camp. We'll send you in there on pure instinct to see if that desire, that hunger comes back.' As you see, it just wasn't him and just doesn't have it anymore, doesn't want it anymore and good for him for recognizing that and knowing that he has options outside of the Octagon. What he's done here is so remarkable. It's gonna go down as one of the most amazing and inspirational athletic stories of all time."
While one of the key reasons to step down was the accumulation of injuries suffered during all those years of training in wrestling and MMA, another was to not tarnish his legacy and his inspirational story to the deaf community. Holmes believes that time away from the sport will do wonder's for Hamill's body and he didn't rule out a possible return to the sport if those injuries begin to heal and the price is right.
"Who's to say? He's gonna be 35 in October and in MMA years, it's not really that old. So let's say he takes a couple years off, he does some motivational speaking, he does some celebrity appearances somewhere and then all of the sudden the MMA money is ridiculous and they say, 'hey, we'll give Matt a million dollars to fight Bisping in Madison Square Garden.' Matt would probably be like, 'alright, I'll take one shot like that.' Who knows? Nothing's set in stone but for right now, it's definitely the best decision."
Hamill has plenty on his plate in the meantime. He's a celebrity in the deaf community and plans on making multiple appearances around the country. He's working on building his gym in Ithaca and he's also got a movie coming out about his life titled "Hamill." The feature film will hit theaters this November and he expects to be very busy doing media to help publicize the release.
So what do you think Maniacs?
Did you know about the massive amount of injuries Matt Hamill has had to deal with during his UFC tenure? Will the competitive fire inside "The Hammer" ever be reignited?
For more from Matt Hamill and Duff Holmes, check out the replay of MMAmania.com's exclusive presentation of Pro MMA Radio right here.