Ultimate Fighting Championship light heavyweight Paul Craig was less than a second away from retiring and hanging up his gloves. Now, he’ll be sticking around for at least another four fights.
In an interview with U.K. outlet Metro published on Wednesday, Scotland’s Craig admitted that if he were to have lost his UFC Fight Night 127 bout with Magomed Ankalaev this past Saturday in London, he planned on exiting MMA. Instead, courtesy of his breathtaking come-from-behind submission of Ankalaev, he’s inked a new four-fight deal with the UFC.
“Saturday was my last fight,” Craig told Metro. Not just as a UFC fighter, but as an MMA fighter. At that minute, the contract was over and I wasn’t a fighter anymore, I wasn’t going to allow myself to fight at a lesser promotion. I wasn’t going to settle for second best. I want to be in the No.1 promotion and that’s the UFC.”
The 30-year-old Craig made a slick Octagon debut in December 2016 and pushed his record to 9-0, armbarring Henrique da Silva in the second round. After the contest, “Bearjew” decided to quit his teaching job with British national education charity SkillForce and focus on fighting full-time, but suffered tough, first-round knockout losses to Tyson Pedro and Khalil Rountree last year that caused him to reevaluate his fighting future.
Against Ankalaev, Craig was battered for the near-duration of the contest, getting slugged standing and pounded liberally on top by the previously unbeaten Dagestan native. With a second left, the Scotsman threw up a Hail Mary triangle choke and was able to secure the miraculous, Hail Mary submission. The official end came at 4:59:68, the latest finish of any kind in UFC history.
“‘At the time I didn’t know if I’d done enough to get a new contract. I’d come home victorious and with a $50,000 bonus, but I wasn’t sure what my future was as a fighter,” he continued, explaining that he got the contract offer on Monday and accepted.
“It’s the makes the story that bit better. Backs against the wall, in the last second, to win a new contract,” Craig added. “I was coming off two losses. There was the fear that my UFC dream was coming to an end. I’d already made that decision before the fight. When you set yourself goals, you can’t settle for second best.”