With retirement on Ricardo Lamas’ mind going into his most recent fight, one emotional moment helped him finalize his decision.
Lamas (20-8 MMA, 11-6 UFC), 38, has officially decided to hang up his gloves, he told MMA Junkie Radio exclusively. The decision comes on the heels of a unanimous decision win over Bill Algeo at UFC on ESPN+ 33, and he said someone very special to his heart prompted that choice.
Lamas lost his brother in 2009, and though he’s always with him in spirit, something was a little different in his last fight.
“If you watch me fight, you’ll know that I always carry a rosary with me to the weigh-ins and to the walkout, and I’ll give it to my corner or whatever,” Lamas told MMA Junkie Radio. “In 2009, one of my brothers passed away and he was living in Arizona at the time. So when we got the news, me, two of my brothers and my dad went out there to kind of gather his belongings, see him, kind of identify him and bring him back. … I was in this little store, kind of like a Native American store, and they had a bunch of rosaries – little wooden rosaries.
“So I picked one up, one for myself, one for each of my brothers, one for my dad, and one for my brother who had just passed away. At his wake, I had the priest bless all the rosaries, and I gave one to each of my brothers and we buried one with my brother. So that was kind of my way of bringing him with me to every fight, because he was really proud (of me).”
Prior to facing Algeo, Lamas was coming off a knockout loss to Calvin Kattar in which he suffered a broken jaw. He entered the Algeo fight already contemplating retirement, but he almost made the walk with something pivotal missing.
“After my last fight, because of my hospitalization, I was in the hospital, putting all my crap away. I misplaced the rosary,” Lamas said. “I didn’t know where it was, and I kind of forgot about it because I pretty much only bring it to fights. And I’m getting ready to leave for Miami, and because I had to go straight to Vegas from Miami, I’m getting everything ready to bring to the fight, like my flag, and I’m looking for the rosary. I’m tearing my house apart and my wife is helping me look, and I couldn’t find it anywhere and I’m like, ‘(Expletive).’
“So I just had to leave without it. And the other crazy thing is that my brother passed away on Aug. 28, 2009. The day of the weigh-ins was Aug. 28, and that night, I had made weight. So I’m on weight, I go to bed, I wake up about 3 a.m. just because I’m so thirsty, and I just start scrolling through Facebook and one of my brothers had posted a comment on my late brother’s memorial page, and I commented on it, and I just started scrolling through pictures of him and kind of talking to him in my head and saying, ‘I know I don’t need a rosary to know that you’re here with me, and please just watch over me just one more time. I just want one more win, and I’ll move on from the sport.’”
Lamas made a promise to his brother that Aug. 29 would be his final walk. But on the morning of the fight, Lamas realized his brother was with him all along, giving him confidence that he was in for a memorable night.
“So the next morning, I’m packing up my backpack, the backpack that I use every single day. I’m putting stuff in there, and the main pocket flapped open,” Lamas said. “On the inside of the main pocket is another pocket with a zipper. The zipper was cracked maybe half an inch, an inch, and I’m just sitting on the bed, and I glance over and look at the backpack and through that half-an-inch hole, I see a piece of the rosary in there. And I was like, ‘No (expletive) way.’ So I unzip it, stick my hand in and pull the rosary out and just started bursting out into tears.
“But after that happened, I knew something big was going to happen in this fight. One of my corners was staying with me, and I tried telling him about it and I couldn’t even talk. I kept getting choked up. I was crying, and then he started crying, so I’ve never had anything like that happen to me – if it was a coincidence … the same day that my brother passed away … a few hours before, I’m literally talking to him in my head and mention the rosary … I didn’t have it with me … and I think it was just his way of letting me know he was still there. So he kept his promise to watch over me, so I’ve got to stick by my word, and I’m going to hang up my gloves after that performance.”
Lamas put on a vintage performance, using his experience and grit to outlast Algeo in a “Fight of the Night” effort. The WEC and UFC veteran has been a top contender for the majority of his career, even challenging for the UFC featherweight title in 2014. He holds notable wins over Cub Swanson, Diego Sanchez and Charles Oliveira, and has competed against the who’s-who of the sport.