A month after Dana White tried to retire Chuck Liddell, the controversy continues. Here’s his latest statements on the subject, given at the UFC 98 press conference:
“Trust me when I tell you, he’s ready to retire,” White said. “He’s ready to retire. It’s the reason we love Chuck Liddell. He has nothing left to prove. He’s got a [expletive] load of money. He’s been a world champion. He’s beaten a who’s who of mixed martial arts fighters. He’s the most famous guy in the sport. There’s no reason to fight. He’s 40 years old, man. He and I had an agreement. We had a deal.
“Am I his father? Can I tell him not to fight? Absolutely not. If he still wants to fight, he can fight. I’m not saying, ‘It will never happen. It will never happen.’ But he made a deal with me. He’s never not listened to me. We’ll see what happens.”
White is Liddell’s former manager and the two are close friends. When asked if he’d stand in the way of Liddell fighting outside the UFC if Liddell opted to fight, White hedged.
“I don’t know, man,” he said, grimacing. “I’m honestly telling you guys I can not see him coming back to me and saying, ‘I want to fight one more.’ We already did that. I can’t see it happening. I think there are a lot of people around him who need his money putting pressure on him. That’s what I think.”
While I think we can all agree that Dana White handled the Chuck retirement issue with all the grace of a quadriplegic falling down several flights of stairs, you can’t say he doesn’t have Chuck’s best interests in mind. The average fight promoter would milk a guy like Liddell for all he’s worth, setting up big money fights until no one is willing to pay for them any more and then feeding Chuck to the next generation.
But instead Dana wants to stop making millions of dollars off his friend because he doesn’t want Chuck to finish his career with an ugly Ken Shamrock style skid to the bottom. It’s debatable as to whether that’s what would happen if Chuck continued to fight, but it’s hard to look at his performances from 2007 onwards and not say Chuck’s on the wrong side of the hill here.
Here’s hoping this entire situation is one where everyone has Chuck Liddell’s best interests in mind … Dana doesn’t want Chuck to become a punchline, and John Hackleman just doesn’t want Dana telling Chuck what to do. Still, when’s the last time you’ve heard of a club hopper like Chuck not having an entourage full of stupid freeloaders and morons? Can MMA really be the complete opposite of boxing to the point where you have people fighting over trying to help a fighter out instead of fucking him over?