Combat sports legend Melvin Manhoef retires after Bellator 285 loss

After 28 years, combat sports legend Melvin Manhoef is calling it quits.

Following a third-round knockout defeat Friday to Yoel Romero at Bellator 285 in Dublin, Manhoef (32-16-2 MMA, 4-5 BMMA) took off his gloves and was joined by his family in the cage for an emotional retirement announcement.

“I want to thank everybody for supporting my career for 28 years – 28 years I’m fighting and I didn’t want to fight a nobody,” Manhoef said in the cage. “I want to fight names. I did the best that I can. And for 28 years I’m doing this, this is what I love. I appreciate all the support that you gave me. But today I think we have to hang up the gloves after 28 years of fighting. Thanks for the support. You make my life great. Thank you, Ireland.”

The retirement and subsequent scenes of emotion were met with a standing ovation by the thousands of fans in attendance.

Manhoef, 46, indicated before the bout he expected it to be his final appearance and followed through. He previously retired from his combat sports base of kickboxing in 2017.


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The journey through combat sports competition began at 18 for The Netherland’s Manhoef, who made his pro MMA debut in 1995. From 1996-1999 he competed in kickboxing before he returned for a second MMA bout.

From 1998-2009, Manhoef competed in MMA and kickboxing simultaneously. Promotions included K-1, Dream, It’s Showtime, M-1, Dynamite!, and Cage Rage among others. Notable wins during this stretch included Mark Hunt, Kazushi Sakuraba, and Kazuo Misaki. He won championships in both the It’s Showtime and Cage Rage promotions.

In 2010, Manhoef made his Strikeforce debut when he lost to Robbie Lawler. He competed one more time for the promotion in a loss to Tim Kennedy.

Stops in ONE FC (now rebranded One Championship) and KSW followed before he eventually reunited with Scott Coker in Bellator. While his results were split over ten appearances, Manhoef provided numerous highlights as eight of those 10 were finished inside the distance.

In a tweet immediately after the Bellator 285 bout, Coker deemed Manhoef one of his “favorite fighters ever” and added, “It has been an absolute honor to promote you.”

For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for Bellator 285.

Story originally appeared on MMA Junkie