("No one is going to tell [Liddell] when he’s going to stop fighting," says John Hackleman. Photo courtesy of MMA Ring Report.)
In his prime, he was a Destroyer of Worlds. But the Chuck Liddell we saw lose to Mauricio Rua at UFC 97 earlier this month was so deteriorated that retirement talk was inevitable. Liddell’s footwork was achingly slow, and Rua proved that the holes in the Iceman’s defense could be punctured even after Liddell had spent months trying to patch them up. (Though maybe not.) These facts were clearer to Dana White than anyone else. Directly after the event, White announced that Chuck would absolutely be retiring from the sport, profits be damned. Later, he promised "a fucking war" if Liddell refused to hang up his gloves, ostensibly because he didn’t want to see his longtime friend permanently injured.
It doesn’t seem like many people are talking about this aspect of the recent Chuck Liddell saga, so I just wanted to reiterate: Liddell’s forced retirement may primarily be due to Dana White’s concern for his friend’s health, but the UFC has Chuck over a barrel, legally speaking, in the same way that they tied up Randy Couture in 2007-2008. Because he has one fight left on his UFC contract, Liddell is currently unable to compete for another MMA organization. If the UFC lets him fight one more time, then he’s free to leave them and make money for one of the UFC’s rivals. To prevent this situation, the UFC is simply choosing to not give him that last fight.
The end result is Chuck Liddell being shut out of making a living as a fighter. (Remember, you can be released from your UFC contract if you decide to completely retire from the sport, but if you ever emerge from retirement, you still have to honor whatever was left on your contract when you left it; otherwise, you’ll need a good lawyer and a year to spend in court.) I’m not saying it’s a wise move for Chuck Liddell to continue competing at this point. But when it comes down to it, retirement should be his choice, and Dana White’s effort to kick him out of the sport feels ethically problematic, and partially motivated by business interests.
If Chuck goes the stubborn route, I think he’ll see his buddy-buddy relationship with Dana turn sour in a hurry. Because as much as DW doesn’t want to see Chuck get knocked out again, he really doesn’t want to see the Iceman headline a card for Strikeforce.