Fighting first, everything else second. That’s the mantra by which many professional fighters around the world live their life. It’s fair enough. It makes sense that to be the absolute best at something, you have to dedicate your life and everything that you have to the cause.

For some fighters, though, there is more to life than donning the gloves and attempting to take the world by storm. Some fighters know in their heart that they just aren’t going to make it to the UFC. That doesn’t mean they can’t have fun.

A father of four, Richard Kemp-Hay knows his limitations in the realm of mixed martial arts. After 12 professional bouts, he is ready to call it a day…but not before he has one last night of fun. His farewell comes when he competes in the one-night eliminator for the Storm Damage featherweight title on March 22 in Canberra, Australia.

“I’ve had a lot going on with my family and in my personal life and I’m 39 years old this year, so I think it’s time to give it away,” Kemp-Hay revealed in an exclusive interview with The MMA Corner. “I’ve built up the fight experience that I wanted and now I am accredited to teach martial arts, so I am looking forward to being able to pass on my knowledge. I am looking to focus on teaching in MMA striking and also work on my own skills in jiu-jitsu.

“Things in my personal life have just gotten really crazy over the past few months. Over the years I’ve missed out on some great training opportunities to look after my kids, because for me they come first no matter what. That’s how I am. I’m grateful for all the support I’ve had from my parents. I have a new girlfriend now, and she’s got some kids of her own, and I really wanna build a future with her and the kids.”

Over the course of a one-year period, Kemp-Hay competed over 10 times across mixed martial arts and Muay Thai. In his fights from the earlier part of 2012, Kemp-Hay was competing at welterweight and was renowned for taking last-minute fights, much to the delight of promoters around Australia.

The bulk of the success in his fighting career came from when he made the move to the featherweight division. With the move, it’s easy to look back and wonder what could have been. What if he had made the weight change earlier? What if he had taken fights with a full camp? Kemp-Hay would sometimes ask himself these questions, but whenever he saw the opportunity to earn some extra cash for his family, he took it.

“It was really just a means to an end,” he explained. “Maybe if I had of done it correctly things might have been different, but, for me, it was just something for me to do. At the time, my ex would have the kids on the weekend and I didn’t have anything going on. If promoters called me up on two or three days’ notice and offered me a fight for a couple of hundred bucks, I’d take it. The kids were with their mum, so it was just some extra cash and a bit of fun for me.”

For the first time in his mixed martial arts career, Kemp-Hay is riding back-to-back wins. He submitted Adam Corbett in just 48 seconds at Storm Damage 3 and needed a mere 29 ticks of the clock to score a TKO of Jared Weston at Cage Conquest 3. He’s seen the inside of the Storm Damage cage twice in his career, and he had his hand raised as the victor on both occasions. Taking part in the one-night eliminator for the Storm Damage featherweight title means that should Kemp-Hay win his two bouts, he will hang up the gloves with a career-best four-fight winning streak. Kemp-Hay’s opening-round match-up puts him opposite Steve Reeks, who enters the cage for the first time in over a year.

“I feel confident,” Kemp-Hay exclaimed. “I know that he has got exceptional skills in Muay Thai and he’s a purple belt in BJJ. It’s a tough fight, but I’m ready for whatever happens. I think it’s gonna be a fun fight to watch, and no matter what happens, I’m just gonna go in there like I always do and I’m gonna have some fun.”

In the sport of MMA, a fighter is judged on their record. It makes sense. Winning fights leads to more opportunities. Those are numbers that can be used fill a spreadsheet or a database, but sometimes they are just that—numbers on a page. The numbers don’t do justice to the fight that a competitor may have had to endure in their lifetime. Kemp-Hay may not be the best fighter that Australia has ever seen. He may not have the winning record that fighters everywhere around the world strive to obtain. But what he lacks in that department, he more than makes up for in his willingness to procure a better life for himself and his family.

Richard would like to extend a big thanks to Adam Washbourne and Fighters Against Child Abuse Australia, Scott and Chris at Old School Cartel, Russ and Phil at Full Circle MMA, Terry and Rod at Highlands MMA, Richard, Dan, Nick and Craig at Southern Fitness and Martial Arts and a massive thank you to his parents, Helen and Geoff, and his girlfriend, Beth, for their fantastic support through everything. Follow Kemp-Hay on Twitter: @Rok_Ape

About The Author

Staff Writer, Australia

Located in Queanbeyan, New South Wales, Neil Rooke has been writing about the sport of MMA since 2011. In the past, Neil has written for Cage Junkies and has written for Fight! Magazine as well as Fist! Fight Magazine. Neil is also a regular contributor to Fight! Magazine Australia and Yahoo! Sports Singapore.