Brad Imes | Jeff Sherwood/Sherdog.com
Life away from the mixed martial arts world could not be better for Brad Imes, the runner up on Season 2 of “The Ultimate Fighter” who gained notoriety with his unique nickname -- “The Hillbilly Heartthrob.”
Imes, who considers himself officially retired, last fought in September 2009.
“I’m doing great, and I love where my life’s at right now,” Imes told Sherdog.com. “I got married over [Memorial Day weekend], and I have a baby girl due in March. Things are really going well and I stay in shape, but I try to keep from getting hit in the head.”
The 33-year-old Imes has been a full-time firefighter in Jefferson City, Mo., for the last two years, and he finished his MMA career with a 13-7 record. However, he was just 2-4 in his last six fights and dropped three of his final four, all by knockout. Imes said it was those knockout losses that made him decide to walk away from the fight game.
“I had a lot of medical issues even before I started my fighting career,” said Imes. “I had concussions and a skull fracture when I was in college [at the University of Missouri]. At the end of my career, it was getting hard to keep my eyes open. Early in my career, I could stand with guys and take punches. At the end, one or two hard shots would have me woozy. I didn’t want to be taking paydays and losing to people I shouldn’t be losing to, and that’s what I was doing at the end of my career. That was when I knew I needed to walk away.”
A fighter’s chin turning from granite to china is far from a new phenomenon in MMA. Former UFC light heavyweight champion and recent retiree Chuck Liddell, who suffered knockout losses in his final three fights, serves as another example. Imes said his previously suffered skull fracture, which occurred when he was hit in the back of the head with a fire extinguisher, along with hard sparring early in his MMA career, combined to shorten his shelf life.
“I’d definitely say all of the concussions I had, plus the skull fracture, made my career shorter,” said Imes, who had nine submissions among his 13 professional victories. “When I fractured my skull, it didn’t knock me out, but I couldn’t walk right for two months. When you’re sparring hard with guys who push you, you’re going to take some shots where your vision goes on you a little bit. It starts to take a toll on you.”
Add in a pair of surgically repaired knees, a surgically repaired elbow and flare-ups from a congenital back defect, and one can see the reasoning behind Imes’ difficult to call it quits.
“I don’t think any MMA fighter walks away when they want to,” said Imes. “It’s more like they have to. It’s a hard career to have. Hardly anybody goes out on top.”
However, Imes is not bitter about how his career ended. Instead, he understands injuries, whether they occur in sparring sessions or live fights, are a part of mixed martial arts.
“It’s just the nature of the beast,” said Imes. “Nobody misses the pain that comes with being a fighter. I really liked getting in the ring and having it out. My best experiences were my toughest fights, and I miss the competition. I wish I could still do it and I had a lot of fun, but if I can’t be the best I can be, I’m not going to do it.”