The year is 2017. Seven years ago, Chuck Liddell retired / was forced into retirement by the UFC following a three year skid that saw him go 1-5 in the promotion, including four losses on the wrong end of scary knockouts. Chuck used to be the one dealing out those brutal KOs like candy, relying on his iron chin to sprawl and brawl until he inevitably caught his opponents on the button. But years of hard sparring and hard partying caught up with him, and UFC president Dana White (also Chuck’s former manager and close friend) finally stepped in at the end saying the promotion wouldn’t book him any more.
Liddell reluctantly agreed to stop fighting, but now pictures of the 47 year old former light heavyweight champion have some people speculating that a return to cage fighting for ‘The Iceman’ cometh.
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There's just nothing like it when @chuckliddell is ON! These are freakin ELBOWS…. from a ridiculous range!!! How was YOUR Tuesday bc I can promise you it was definitely better than mine!. #IcemanElbows @unbreakableperformance. #mma #elbowsallday #gym #IWishWePlayedCheckersInsteadOfThis
Whether it’s a good idea or a bad idea for Liddell to fight again, there’s no doubt that it would draw a ton of eyeballs and therefore be a lucrative choice for the MMA legend. That’s why his longtime coach John Hackleman isn’t telling his pupil ‘Don’t do it!’
“It’s whatever is in his heart,” Hackleman said on The Anik and Florian Podcast. “3 million bucks? Who is gonna tell someone, ‘No. I’m not gonna allow you to make $3 million, which is more than most people make in three lifetimes’ … But even $3 million, I don’t think that would be enough to put his life at risk and his legacy at risk.”
“Because his legacy, not only for his own self-esteem but his legacy for his future earnings as well, could be worth a hell of a lot more than $3 million and tarnishing it to a certain degree, that might not be worth it. So it would all depend on the opponent.”
Up until the UFC was bought by WME-IMG, the UFC had former promotional superstars like Chuck and Matt Hughes on the payroll in largely ceremonial positions — partially as a thank you for their part in the UFC’s success, and partially to keep them from being tempted to stage a comeback with other promotions. But those cheques stopped coming after the sale, and rumor has it Matt Hughes is already talking to Bellator. Is Chuck doing the same? Hackleman’s 3 million dollar figure is awfully specific, making us wonder if he’s already entertaining offers.
Personally, I don’t think it’s all that great of an idea for a 47 year old to stage an MMA comeback, especially not someone who bites down on their mouthguard and comes forward head first. That being said, I would certainly tune in and watch any fight Liddell was involved with, be it in the UFC, Bellator, or some strange Japanese or Russian promotion. And it’s that kind of response that could lead to Liddell making another walk to the cage, for better or worse.