May 04, 2009

Following consecutive knockouts to make it four losses in his past five fights, former UFC light heavyweight champion Chuck Liddell is leaning toward retirement, a source close to the 39-year-old told on Sunday.

In the wake of Liddell's opening-round, technical-knockout loss to Mauricio "Shogun" Rua on April 18, UFC president Dana White said he considered the performance to be Liddell's final effort in the Octagon. Yet, members of the fighter's camp, including trainer John Hackleman, remained ambivalent as recently as Friday.

By the end of a weekend spent deliberating with his representatives at Zinkin Entertainment & Sports Management, more than two weeks after his sixth KO loss, Liddell (21-7) seems to agree with White, his close friend and former manager who helped propel him to stardom.

"I don't want to see anybody sticking around too long," White said at the UFC 97 post-fight press conference. "I don't want to see anyone get hurt. ... And you're never going to see Chuck Liddell on the canvas again. It's done. Tonight was the end of an era. One of the greatest guys in the sport fought his last fight tonight."

Enjoying a calling that spanned nearly 11 years and took him from no-rules fights in the jungle heat of Brazil, to the giant stadiums of Japan and sold-out arenas in Las Vegas, Liddell's career was fittingly bookended by bouts in the UFC. No matter the promoter, the heavy-fisted fighter earned a reputation for saying yes to tough opponents.

In most cases, he held up well, piecing together 10- and seven-fight win streaks, helping him score stoppages in two-thirds of his victories. Counted among his main rivals were Tito Ortiz (2-0), Randy Couture (2-1) and Quinton "Rampage" Jackson (0-2).

Inseparable from the UFC, for which he fought 22 times and ruled as light heavyweight champion from the spring of 2005 until May 2007, "The Iceman" became one of the sport's wealthiest and most popular fighters, and managed to transcend the niche. Prior to losing the UFC belt to Jackson, he appeared as a guest star on HBO's Entourage and was the first mixed martial artist to be featured on the cover of ESPN The Magazine.

Liddell's zenith in popularity, however, intersected a rapid decline in the cage.

Starting with the title-jarring knockout to Jackson, Liddell dropped a listless decision against Keith Jardine, rebounded to out-point Wanderlei Silva in a war, took a vicious overhand right that earned Rashad Evans "Knockout of the Year" honors in 2008, and, finally, succumbed to Rua.

A noted counter-striker who was at his best shutting down converted wrestlers before a fairly predictable attack and slowing reflexes betrayed him, the San Luis Obispo, Calif., resident did not respond to a request for comment.

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