Ryan Coogler’s Rocky spinoff Creed is seen by many fans as the strongest series installment since the 1976 original. The film was a critical and commercial success, earning $109 million domestically and a Best Supporting Actor nomination for Sylvester Stallone. Returning once again to the role that made him a worldwide superstar, Stallone impressed in what could be his finest dramatic performance to date, playing an aging Italian Stallion who trains Adonis Johnson, son of his rival-turned-friend Apollo Creed.

Much of Creed‘s success can be attributed to the bond that formed between Rocky and Adonis, which served as the emotional crux of the whole picture. It’s hard to envision a Creed 2 without the pair back at it, and Stallone has even been discussing possible ideas for the followup. But now, his tune appears to have changed a bit and he feels Balboa’s journey may have finally reached its end point.

While at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival (via Variety), Stallone suggested that his days playing Rocky could be over, wondering where the character would go after what transpired in the first Creed:

“I really have mixed feelings about this, seriously. I feel like Rocky, at the end of this movie on the steps, with the help of a young man, and he looks out and says, ‘From here, you can see your whole life’ — it sort of summarizes the whole thing. I don’t know how much further you can push Rocky.”

While the Creed franchise would largely be about the career of Adonis, it would be a major disappointment if Stallone stepped down now. His involvement with the first movie was a huge selling point, and even though Adonis is now a fan-favorite in his own right, moviegoers still love watching Stallone as Rocky. If Adonis is to continue boxing and try to become a championship fighter, he’s going to need a trainer and nobody fits that bill better than Balboa. Stallone’s potential departure would create a massive void that’s near impossible to fill.

At the same time, one can see why Stallone is conflicted on the matter. Creed really did provide nice closure for the character as Rocky’s story came full circle. Stallone may view that final scene as a metaphorical passing of the torch, as Rocky backs away to give Adonis the opportunity to continue the legacy on his own. It’s also possible that Stallone is wary about holding on for too long and wants to go out on top. As great as it is to see Rocky on the big screen, it would be unfortunate if Stallone’s would-be role in a sequel failed to match or top his award-worthy effort in Creed.

It’s important to note that Stallone has a history of flip-flopping when it comes to retiring Rocky. Prior to making Creed, he felt that 2006’s Rocky Balboa was the final chapter for the cinematic icon, but then Coogler convinced him to come back for one more round. In the end, it may come down to the direction of Creed 2 and whether or not Stallone feels Rocky’s inclusion is a necessary element for the narrative. Fans will no doubt be hoping he returns, but at this point, the actor has earned the right to leave when he wants – especially if he takes home Oscar gold 40 years after introducing viewers to the character.

NEXT: Creed 2 Aiming For Fall 2017 Release

Creed will be available on Blu-ray March 1, 2016. We’ll keep you updated on the development of Creed 2.

Source: Variety