At 44, Aleksei Oleinik still learning, not thinking about retirement heading into UFC on ESPN 33

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Aleksei Oleinik currently is mired in just the third losing skid of his career.

Considering that career stretches back more than 25 years and more than 75 fights, that seems a remarkable accomplishment. Oleinik (59-16-1 MMA, 8-7 UFC) will try to snap a three-fight skid when he takes on Ilir Latifi (15-8 MMA, 8-6 UFC) at heavyweight on the UFC on ESPN 33 main card Saturday in Columbus, Ohio.

But even at 44 and with three straight losses, Oleinik said he doesn’t have his eye on retirement.

“The first time I thought about retiring was 2001,” Oleinik told MMA Junkie at Wednesday’s media day for UFC on ESPN 33. “I said, ‘I’m finished.’ This was 21 years ago. I didn’t fight for two years. After, I started fighting again. I fight, fight, fight, and in 2006 or 2007, I was finished again. I didn’t fight for one and a half years. And as you know, I still fight (today), and I still fight not in a small promotion, but in the UFC.

“Of course I look to the end of the road. But today, I’m here. … What is tomorrow? I don’t know. And you don’t know. Nobody knows.”

Part of Oleinik’s reason to not truly think about hanging up his gloves comes from what he said is a regular evolvement in the sport.

In August 2020, he was knocked out by Derrick Lewis in a main event. Six months later, UFC on ESPN 33 headliner Chris Daukaus stopped him in the first round. And in June 2021, he lost a decision to Serghei Spivac. But in all three, he thinks he learned a little something new to bring to his game the next time out.

And as long as he’s learning and evolving and feels good physically, retirement isn’t yet on the board.

“Each fight is important for me,” he said. “I don’t look at my previous fights. I don’t look and say, ‘Oh, I lost two fights – I must win.’ Of course I must win every time. Sometimes in my life, I’ve had 10 wins in a row. Of course I don’t plan for losses. Nobody plans to lose, I hope, in the UFC. Now I can explain, this fight I must change my game plan, or something in the fight, and I can win.”

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