That backward-leaning, chest-pressed-forward mad dash around the cage, arms in full wingspan, eyes wildly open and facial muscles still twitching from an explosion of ecstatic zeal, will never be forgotten. Not many UFC fighters could celebrate a win like Chuck Liddell. Not many could fight like him, either.
But the man they call "The Iceman" has no more fight left in him. At a pre-UFC 125 news conference a couple of weeks ago, company president Dana White and CEO Lorenzo Fertitta announced that Liddell is done. They made the announcement because Liddell couldn't. When they brought him up to the podium to whoops and cheers from the fighters, reporters and fans in attendance, Chuck could barely speak a few words of thanks to his fans before choking up. After a pause, he quietly said, "I love this sport."
Retirement was a long time coming for Liddell, to be frank. White actually proclaimed that Chuck was through a year and a half ago, after he was TKO'd by Mauricio "Shogun" at UFC 97, Liddell's fourth loss in five bouts. But Chuck still wanted to fight, so he signed up to coach Season 11 of
But not finished with the UFC entirely. White and Lorenzo were at the news conference also to unveil the hiring of Liddell as executive vice president for business development. They gave no specifics about his duties, but from hearing them speak about what Liddell has to offer, this did not appear to be one of those just-put-the-old-guy-on-the-payroll moves, like a retired Joe Louis being hired by Caesars Palace as a casino greeter.
Liddell is no Joe Louis, in celebrity or stature, but he's the closest thing MMA has had. His reach extended far beyond the octagon, from a comical guest appearance on HBO's
I spoke to Liddell last week after he arrived home from UFC 125. We talked about some past glories of a Hall of Famer and some future ambitions of a newly minted exec, plus a few silver linings and strange twists.
Even the fact that I was willing to learn put me at an advantage. Randy Couture was the same way -- when he came in, he wanted to get better at everything. But there were a lot of guys back then -- and even still -- who wanted to prove that their style of fighting was superior. They didn't want to learn anyone else's stuff; they just wanted to win with their stuff.
What I remember from the fight was that the one thing I knew about the guy was that he had a big overhand right. He'd knocked out a couple of guys quickly with it. So I told myself, "Watch out for that big right." Then the fight began and the first punch I got hit with was that overhand right.