Double Olympic medallist Lutalo Muhammad is preparing to turn his attention to mixed martial arts after calling time on his international taekwondo career at the age of 31.
Muhammad won a bronze medal at London 2012 and fell agonisingly short of gold in Rio four years later when his opponent Cheick Sallah Cisse landed a head-kick in the final second of their men’s 80kg bout.
A lifelong combat sports fan, Muhammad revealed he has already received some tentative offers and is considering shifting his career into the MMA octagon.
“I feel like my Olympic journey may be over, but I don’t feel like I’m finished yet as an athlete,” Muhammad told the PA news agency.
“I don’t even feel like I’ve reached my physical prime yet. I’ve been been fighting my whole life and I have got such a love for combat sports and MMA in particular.
“I am going to take my time before I make a final decision because MMA can be brutal and you have to give it time and respect. But I dream of becoming a more complete martial artist.”
Muhammad hit the headlines prior to London 2012 when he was selected in the men’s -80kg category over his Great Britain team-mate Aaron Cook, who was ranked number one in the world at the time.
He defied the pressure to win a bronze medal, and went on to triumph in two World Grands Prix before heading to Rio as one of the gold medal favourites four years later.
Muhammad led his Ivorian opponent by two points with the seconds ticking down, but suffered one of the most dramatic defeats in the sport’s history as Cisse swung a three-point leg kick with a single second left on the clock.
Undaunted, Muhammad moved up a weight category but found himself on a collision course with another team-mate and good friend Mahama Cho, who was preferred in the Great Britain team for Tokyo, effectively spelling the end of Muhammad’s top-level career.
“It was a really good run and I reflect on it all very positively,” added Muhammad. “I’m at peace with my silver medal. I’ll never know what might have been if I’d won gold, but silver gave me a platform and helped me make a name for myself.
“I realised after I missed out on Tokyo that I didn’t want to stick around for another cycle and be a taekwondo athlete for ever. I knew it was time to move on and dedicate my prime to something else.”