by Ken Pishna – MMAWeekly.com
It was made all but official on Saturday night. It appears that mixed martial arts fans have likely seen “The Iceman” grace the Octagon for the final time in his illustrious career.
It surely wasn’t the way that he would want to go out – being knocked out by a driving left hand from Mauricio “Shogun” Rua at UFC 97 – and Chuck Liddell wouldn’t go quite so far as to make a definitive statement.
When asked straight out if he agreed with UFC president Dana White’s sentiment that this was indeed his last time in the Octagon, Liddell responded, ” Yeah, that’s probably safe to say,” before the disclaimer, “but I’m not gonna make any decisions until I go home and talk to everybody, talk to all my people, my friends.”
Liddell will be given his time, but White did not waiver. “At the end of the day, I care about these guys. I don’t want to see anybody stick around too long. You’re never going to see Chuck Liddell on the canvas again.”
That’s not to say that if Liddell does indeed hang up the gloves, he won’t be around. White was just as resolute about that. “He’s one of my best friends. He helped us build this business. He helped build this sport. He’ll always be with us and he’ll always be a part of the UFC.”
Of course, given his druthers, Liddell would want to be in the Octagon, putting leather to flesh. And on Saturday night, he really felt ready to do just that in what may have been his last hurrah. “I had a great camp. I was in great shape and ready to go. I felt great about all the stuff we’d been doing (in training).”
But as he nears the age of 40 – that number that seems to make a pariah of most professional athletes – the refrain was the same.
“I just wasn’t able to perform,” he uttered.
Having risen to the upper echelons of the sport, reigning as a UFC champion, fighting most of the top names in the world, a less than ideal finish surely won’t tarnish a legacy that began more than a decade ago.
Though his outlook on the situation was definitive, White surely echoed the sentiments of MMA fans across the globe when he stated, “Tonight was the end of an era. One of the greatest guys in the sport fought his last fight tonight.”