Two-time BKFC champ, UFC veteran Johnny Bedford announces his retirement from combat sports

Johnny Bedford
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Two-time BKFC bantamweight champion and six-fight UFC veteran Johnny Bedford has announced his retirement from combat sports.

He made the news official while appearing on the BKFC podcast on Wednesday after spending the past four years competing in the bare-knuckle promotion. His retirement will also mean that Bedford is relinquishing his bantamweight title, which he reclaimed back in August 2021 with a win over Reggie Barnett Jr.

“I had to be honest with myself,” Bedford said about his decision. “I get to leave on my own terms. I had to just be honest with myself and I think that’s the hardest thing for fighters to do.

“You should know if you have it or not and I had to be honest, just half-assing it and showing up banged up, it’s not good for me, it’s not good for my legacy, it’s not good for the company.”

Bedford added that with his 40th birthday approaching in January and a new baby on the way that he just didn’t want to sacrifice another holiday season spent in a grueling training camp when he could have valuable time with his family.

While he is retiring from competition, Bedford is still expected to work with BKFC in some capacity moving forward and he’s still coaching fighters, which also helped him make the decision to call it a career now rather than later.

Bedford first came to prominence when he joined the cast of The Ultimate Fighter season 14 where he was coached by Jason “Mayhem” Miller. On the reality series, Bedford went 2-1 before being eliminated from the competition by eventual winner John Dodson.

Despite not winning on the show, Bedford was still invited to join the UFC roster where he amassed a 2-3 record with one no contest through six fights.

In 2018, Bedford made the transition from MMA to bare knuckle competition while fighting on the first ever BKFC card. He quickly became a stalwart in the promotion while putting together a 6-1 record including two stints at bantamweight champion.

“I tried to have fun fights,” Bedford said. “Whether you love me or hate me … I knew how to beat these young guys. I get them emotional. Stand over top of them, say stuff in interviews and break them.

“I think people talked about it whether in a good or a bad way, I wanted to fight. I wanted to fight in a phone booth and give the fans what they wanted to see. I tried to bring it.”

With Bedford sidelined throughout 2022, BKFC had actually already crowned an interim champion with Barnett winning the belt with a victory over Jarod Grant in July. Now with Bedford retired, it’s expected that Barnett will become the undisputed champion moving into 2023.

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