MMA: Rob Emerson

Early stoppage came too late for Pellegrino

November, 27, 2011
11/27/11
10:24
AM ET
Mindenhall By Chuck Mindenhall
ESPN.com
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patricky freireChris McGuigan for Sherdog.comThere would be no turning back the clock on this night for Kurt Pellegrino.
This time the end to Kurt Pellegrino’s career came just 50 seconds into his bout with Patricky Freire at Bellator 59. It was a quick technical knockout loss to a guy who we’re now catching on to as a burgeoning knockout specialist. It was an early stoppage to boot.

Yet even though the hometown crowd in Atlantic City voiced their dissension on the matter, Pellegrino himself was quick to accept it. He didn’t exactly protest. Fifty seconds was all he really needed to know he was through.

“Batman” was over it, and, realistically, he has been -- even if he did waffle with the idea after declaring his retirement last night (again).

Pellegrino (16-7) retired the first time very unceremoniously six months ago on the heels of a narrow split decision loss to Gleison Tibau at UFC 128. Having talked to the Point Pleasant native on a couple of occasions, going back to before his decision loss to George Sotiropoulos at UFC 116, the signs were on the wall that his heart wasn’t entirely in it, maybe even less so with the arrival of his second child, Kurt Jr. He decided to give it another go just an hour down the road from his gym in Belmar, at Caesars in Atlantic City, against a hand-chosen opponent with highlight reel knockouts.

One more, just to see.

“It was like Rocky II when Adrian awoke from the coma and told Rocky to ‘win,’” he told MMA Weekly in the weeks leading up of his decision to come back. “I was retired, sitting home watching videos with my son, but I was also training at that time and was in great shape when my wife walked up to me and said, ‘If you want to do it again, go for it.’”

Instead Pellegrino, who had hopeful designs of “suffocating” the season four lightweight finalist, became part of Pitbull’s KO package, just like Toby Imada and Rob McCullough before him. Not the storybook ending Pellegrino had hoped for, but a bit of finality for the scrappy fighter who beat Jay Isip eight years ago on a Reality Fighting card right there in Atlantic City to get his start.
[+] EnlargeKurt Pellegrino, left, Gleison Tibau
Ed Mulholland for ESPN.comKurt Pellegrino, left, originally decided to hang them up after a loss to Gleison Tibau before reconsidering.

And then again, in some ways it was a storybook night, because it had a beginning, a middle, and an end. Pellegrino was making a promotional debut with Bellator, as part of a homecoming to his New Jersey roots, which ended as a bittersweet goodbye to the world of mixed martial arts.

The last part was the big reveal.

What he was hoping for was to rediscover the Pellegrino that beat Junior Assuncao at UFC 64, the one who rattled off four wins in a row against Thiago Tavares, Rob Emerson, Josh Neer and Fabricio Camoes in the UFC between late 2008 and early 2010. The one who was, for a time, orbiting near top 10 conversation. Pellegrino even said he was prepared to die to win Saturday's bout, that it was the biggest fight of his life --that this bout would define him. Maybe it did, and maybe it didn’t, but he found doubtless comfort in the original idea he had after Tibau -- that it was time to move on to coaching and fatherhood.

Was it an early stoppage? Yes, it was obviously a little premature. The 32-year-old Pellegrino was in his wits and clinging to a single leg, trying to recover while eating those hammerfists. That’s the micro-sense. But on whole the stoppage was a little late, because there just wasn’t any fight left in him. And in a chorus of boos Pellegrino was smart enough to block everything out and listen to the voice of reason going on inside of him -- the one telling him to walk away.

And it wasn’t disappointment that he wore on his face afterward, but something far closer to relief.

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