Friday, March 2, 2018 | 2 a.m.
Coming off two consecutive knockout losses for the first time in his career, Mike Pyle knew he had a decision to make.
The 42-year-old could either follow the same path he had for most of his adult life and fight through the adversity, or trust his instinct that it was about time to retire from mixed martial arts. Pyle took his time in coming up with the answer after losing to Alex Garcia at UFC 207 in December 2016, but ultimately landed in the middle of the two options.
One of Las Vegas’ most prolific professional fighters will compete in a goodbye bout at T-Mobile Arena on the undercard of UFC 222. Pyle (27-13-1 MMA, 10-8 UFC) will face Zak Ottow (15-5 MMA, 2-2 UFC) in a welterweight fight streamed on UFC Fight Pass at approximately 4:30 p.m. Saturday at T-Mobile Arena.
“One last time,” Pyle said as he took in UFC’s media day Thursday at MGM Grand. “It’s a great feeling. This is the end of a journey that was awesome. I’ve enjoyed the ride, enjoyed the career.”
Pyle’s only hope is to be remembered as a “pioneer in the sport,” and that much seems promised. He’s among the final fighters to walk away from the generation that came of age during the sport’s mid-2000s boom.
Pyle famously debuted in mixed martial arts against Quinton “Rampage” Jackson in 1999. Jackson has spent his career fighting at a class 35 pounds heavier than Pyle, but the then-machinist from Memphis had never even heard of weight cutting.
He didn’t attempt to start fighting opponents his own size until he moved to Las Vegas 14 years ago because that’s where all the sport’s best fighters were stationed at the time. Pyle’s career took off from there.
“I did have to get a door job, bouncing job right off as soon as I came out here because you’ve got to eat,” Pyle said.
The side hustle only lasted a year or so before Pyle captured the WEC welterweight title and began making enough money through fighting to support himself. He then went through a stretch where he fought for nearly every major non-UFC promotion for the next several years — the International Fight League, Elite XC, Strikeforce and Affliction.
It all culminated in a contract with the UFC, where Pyle reached the fringes of title contention in 2013 with an 8-3 record inside the octagon. He also settled in Las Vegas at a time when many other fighters were fleeing for other super-camps that sprung up across the country.
That’s made Pyle one of the most respected figures in the local fighting scene, where he’s long been known as a first-rate training partner. Pyle racked up plenty of achievements on actual fight nights, but his exhaustive training regimen also became a thing of lore.
“I’ve enjoyed all the people I’ve met along the way,” Pyle said. “I’ve made no enemies, only friends, and that’s great.”
He’s also met some people who will help with his transition away from professional fighting. For the last several years, Pyle has done sporadic work in the movie industry — particularly as a stunt double through contacts he made fighting.
He’s currently working on Amazon’s “The Tick” and is planning to increase his workload in the field.
“I get to pretend to punch people in the face, and then I get to pretend to get punched in the face and get paid for that,” Pyle said. “It’s a great world.”
Fighting is practically all Pyle has known for two decades, so he’s going to stick around. He said he’ll remain a fixture in area gyms and would continue to work with renowned mixed martial arts nutritionist Mike Dolce.
Pyle just won’t be in the cage anymore, not after Saturday.
“I love it all, just being able to go out and do it one last time,” Pyle said. “I’m happy just to be a part of it.”