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Pellegrino, 32, walking away from MMA career

Steve Cofield
Cagewriter

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Quinton Jackson looked solid on Saturday night, but his performance still leaves questions about his desire to continue fighting. The 32-year-old legend of the sport admits that he's fighting for money, not glory or titles. That's not uncommon amongst fighters.

Later in their careers, even with a lack of desire to train hard, most prize fighters will take a few extra fights past their prime. Kurt Pellegrino, 32, doesn't want to be one of those guys and is doing something about it.

It was just last March, that Pellegrino (16-6, 7-5 UFC) was riding a four-fight win streak, but now he's leaving the sport as an active fighter.

"At this time I am choosing to take some time off and step away from the sport as a fighter. Over my most recent fights I have come to the realization that at this point I no longer can, nor want to make fighting my first priority," [Pellegrino said on his website]. "[...] Even last year when i was on a 4 fight win streak I still was questioning myself. This has made me reconsider what my next step will be competitively. I have spoken at length with [UFC matchmaker] Joe Silva about my decision and have decided not to renew my contract with the UFC."

Pellegrino wants to make his family his first priority.{ysp:more}

"Most importantly I want to spend more time with my family. My daughter is four years old and I can't tell you how much of her life I've missed dedicating my life to training for fights. I did so willingly and I've made a lucrative career with the UFC, but I'm not sure I could ever say any amount of money was worth it. My wife and I just welcomed a baby boy and I can't bare the thought of missing as much of his 'firsts' as I did my daughters."

It looks like Pellegrino set himself up nicely. In his native New Jersey, he's got a gym in Belmar, a town on the Jersey Shore. He just expanded the Kurt Pellegrino Mixed Martial Arts Academy.

The future isn't certain for Pellegrino. He may not be completely through with active fighting, but he wants to step back and see if he can regain the hunger that's missing.

"I want to take the time to regroup, refocus, and rethink what it is that I want to do going forward. I want to do things that I enjoy right now and refresh my mind. I want to concentrate on my BJJ game and improve it. I want to work on my boxing game and improve that also. I'd like to compete in some grappling tournaments again like the old days and maybe even try my hand at a pro boxing fight. I want to have fun training again, bottom line."

Pellegrino put on some entertaining shows in the UFC. In 12 fights, he earned a postfight bonus on five occasions.

From a media standpoint, Pellegrino was an interesting guy to cover. Fighting at the highest level always seemed to be more mental than physical for Pellegrino.

His debut in the UFC against Drew Fickett was a prime example. Through two-plus rounds at UFC 61, Pellegrino smoked Fickett, only to make a silly mistake and get submitted in the third round. The same thing happened against Nate Diaz at Ultimate Fight Night 13.

Pellegrino was brutally honest about his failures. That included admitting that he'd taken his education less than seriously and still couldn't read well into his late 20's.

One of the best moments of his career came at UFC 88. Before the fight, Pellegrino spoke about living with his in-laws. He needed to win a fight bonus in order to buy his dream house for his wife and young daughter. Pellegrino beat Thiago Tavares that night, received a $60,000 Fight of the Night award and got his new house.

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