Few fighters have transcended their chosen sport quite like Chuck “The Iceman” Liddell did. It is hard to believe that we are but a relative few short years removed from MMA’s infant stages, when no holds barred fights were taking place in the exotic locale of bars and backroom. During that time, fighters like Liddell toiled in anonymity making fight purses that were so miniscule one would be grateful if they were able to buy beer with the change awarded to them. It was in these dark times that Liddell became a true pioneer of the sport.
Back when mixed martial arts was in essence one martial artist and his discipline squaring off against another martial artists and their discipline, Liddell rose to prominence by successfully integrating various forms of martial arts, gelling them into one cohesive assault to his opponent’s craniums. By successfully blending kickboxing, boxing, and wrestling Liddell coined the term “sprawl and brawl.” His fights quickly became must-see events. In quickly rose to prominence that a Liddell fight guaranteed a night of explosive action.
All of which is why last night’s announcement that Liddell has officially retired from fighting in the UFC is a bittersweet pill to swallow. Sure, this announcement is probably two fights too late. Despite Liddell’s freakish punching power, as the years have gone by his once granite chin has turned to clay. Let’s not forget to mention the fact that the man is 42 years old, an age where the body doesn’t long for grueling training camps and cage fights. One would hate to see Liddell not enjoy his twilight years on account of continued fighting.
Of course Liddell will never be forgotten. The UFC will make sure of that. His fight career now over, Liddell will now serve in an executive role within the Zuffa organization, the UFC’s parent company. Liddell’s official title will be executive vice president of business development. When you think about it, it’s really a perfect fit for a fighter who has been one of the sport’s greatest ambassadors. For many, Liddell is the epitome of mixed martial arts. An unabashed rebel and fighters, but a man holds a degree in business management and accounting. If there was ever someone who embodied the mix of perception and reality when it comes to a cage fighter, it is Liddell.
The UFC, and MMA as a whole, owes a great deal of gratitude for Liddell. While it will be sad to see him exit the cage, the fact remains that this man has done more for MMA than any other fighter.