Brad Pickett: I'm quitting UFC but Conor McGregor will take MMA to a new level
British bantamweight Brad Pickett will walk away from UFC with "bittersweet" emotions but full of belief that Conor McGregor will lift mixed martial arts to new heights.
Pickett is preparing for his farewell in the UFC Fight Night 107 event at the O2 Arena on March 18, saying he owes it to friends and family to retire at the right time.
Pickett, whose 25-13 win-loss career record includes five victories in 13 UFC fights, will mark his farewell to the sport by taking on Mexican Henry Briones.
East Londoner Pickett has become a fan favourite in the Ultimate Fighting Championship since making his debut in 2011.
The 38-year-old, renowned for his all-action style, has become a key figure in British MMA and is one of the pioneers of the sport alongside the likes of UFC middleweight champion Michael Bisping.
Ireland's featherweight and lightweight UFC champion McGregor has a larger-than-life personality that has taken the sport to the masses.
McGregor's technical knockout victory over Eddie Alvarez in November saw him become the first man in UFC history to simultaneously hold two belts.
Many have likened McGregor's impact to that of retired boxer Floyd Mayweather, and Pickett thinks his sport will only benefit from the Dubliner's exploits in and outside the cage.
"It's not what he can do, it's what he's done for the sport, " Pickett said at UFC London's media day.
"He's helped the sport grow massively over the past two years and there's only a few characters out there who have attracted an audience outside of its initial fan base and Conor McGregor has managed to do that.
"I think he's great for the sport, so as long he's still around and still fighting then he will help the sport grow even more."
As Pickett prepares for his swansong, the 38-year-old is adamant that mixed martial arts (MMA) is the premier combat sport in the world.
Although MMA is still finding its feet on British shores, Pickett claims the sport has already surpassed boxing in worldwide popularity.
"To be honest I think MMA is the number one combat sport in the world and has surpassed boxing," Pickett said.
"It's more of a spectator's sport. The thing that goes wrong in boxing is the best guys in the world don't fight each other. The WBO, WBA, WBC ... there's so many different champions, whereas if you want to see the best (MMA) fighters in the world fight, you watch the UFC.
"So the person who has the UFC belt is the best fighter in the world and that's how it kind of works. With boxing it's so confusing for the public to know who is the best fighter in the world and there's so much politics involved. For me, I think MMA has surpassed boxing.
"The sport is growing tremendously over the years. If you look at the numbers of the UFC around the world, it keeps growing and blowing everything out of the water.
"It's a bittersweet feeling (to retire). I love what I do but it's a tough job now for my age, it's hard.
"The training, it's hard on my body, and sometimes it becomes like a job where I owe it to myself, my friends, my family to hang up my gloves, e ven though I want to fight until I'm dead. But obviously that's not the case so I need to concentrate on other things."