After 39 professional bouts and 15 years of competing in mixed martial arts Takeya Mizugaki has decided to call it a career at 36 years old.

The Kanagawa native announced his retirement on late Tuesday evening, leaving the sport with a record of 23-14-2.

According to Mizugaki, thoughts of hanging up the gloves for good began entering his mind following his heartbreaking second-round knockout loss to Manel Kape at Rizin 18 last August.

“The defeat to Manel Kape was an eye-opener for me. I just realized that I could no longer be at my very best. I couldn’t recreate the feeling of being excited to be in that ring,” he said through a translator.

“I wanted to be the best fighter in my division and in the world, but I couldn’t achieve what I was aiming for.” Mizugaki added.

High hopes

Mizugaki admitted that he had high hopes for a UFC return after being released from the Las Vegas-based promotion in 2017. However, the wear-and-tear from the grueling battles in the past had already caught up with him.

“When it hit me that I wasn’t at the top of my game, I knew it was time to retire. Trying to reach the top of the world and be part of the UFC again became so unrealistic for me. It’s a reality that I have to accept,” he stated.

Despite not having the storybook ending that he desired, Mizugaki promises that he will forever remain as an advocate of the sport.

“I am happy to be an athlete of this great sport. It was a crazy ride, but I still love MMA. I am not going anywhere. You’re still going to see me but in a different capacity,” he stressed.

Solid start

After a solid three-year run in the Japanese MMA circuit, Mizugaki had his first exposure to the North American market in 2009 through the now-defunct WEC.

In his WEC debut, he challenged bantamweight champion Miguel Torres and lost by way of split decision in an enthralling encounter that many considered as one of the best matches of 2009.

The Japanese veteran also shared the stage with Jeff Curran, Scott Jorgensen, Rani Yahya and Urijah Faber under the WEC banner before the organization was absorbed by the UFC.

Mizugaki maintained a top contender status during his stint in the UFC, squaring off with the best competitors of his weight class like Bryan Caraway, Erik Perez, Nam Phan, Dominick Cruz, Aljamain Sterling, Cody Garbrandt and Eddie Wineland.

“I can say I had a good career. No regrets whatsoever. I was supported by many people over the course of 15 years. They were with me through ups and downs. I am thankful for that,” he declared.