During Wednesday’s UFC 125 prefight press conference, the company’s president Dana White and CEO Lorenzo Fertitta announced that former light heavyweight champion Chuck Liddell had officially retired.
In the same announcement, they also said Liddell would be named to the executive staff as UFC Executive Vice President of Business Development.
While today’s UFC fans may look at Brock Lesnar and others like him as the casual fan draws to a constantly-growing sport, anyone who was around in Liddell’s heyday can testify to what a tremendous personality he was in mixed martial arts.
The decision to call it quits obviously didn’t come easy for the 41-year-old Liddell. For months rumors raged on regarding whether or not he would give it another go with an easy fight, or finally hang up his gloves for good.
After Rich Franklin knocked Liddell out in the first round of their match on June 12, White made it known that he would never promote another Liddell fight again. The move wasn’t made out of anger or disappointment, but rather, as a means of protecting his company and one of the brand’s true legends.
The loss to Franklin marked Liddell’s third knockout defeat in a row.
Still, despite White’s statements, Liddell refused to throw in the towel. For months his fans hung in the wind wondering what their favorite fighter's decision would end up being. The fighter in him seemed to refuse to believe that his time was up.
Liddell’s career in the sport began in 1998, under the same UFC banner he would ultimately retire under. His win over Noe Hernandez by unanimous decision kicked off a career for the ages.
Prior to his time in the UFC, Liddell was a former Division I wrestler at California Polytechnic State University. It was in school that he developed the technique that made him one of the most feared fighters in the world.
While he wasn't shabby on the ground, punching became Liddell's calling card. Thirteen of his victories came by way of knockout.
During a time when the UFC was struggling to find a foothold among mainstream fans who were tired of boxing but weren’t ready to buy into MMA just yet, Liddell served as a bridge. Something about his look, his style and his fighting abilities spoke to the average man.
His fans dubbed him “Iceman,” but he was far from icy in his out-of-the-cage demeanor. Personable and friendly, he served as the much-needed face of the UFC longer than most realize.
Still, father time eventually caught up with Liddell. The punishment he once handed out started coming back at him – twice as hard. He ended up losing five of his last six fights, and in four of the aforementioned defeats, he didn’t make it past the second round.
Finally, the UFC ironman realized that he would never be able to recapture the success that he had earlier in his career. He was a proven winner, a champion – and he would go out as such despite the results of his last few matches.
Now, a new chapter begins for Liddell. As VP of Business Development the ‘Iceman’ has the opportunity to continue to work for the brand he helped turn into a household name.