Since his first round technical knockout loss to Mauricio “Shogun” Rua at UFC 97 on April 18, everyone has been talking about Chuck Liddell’s retirement… except Liddell.
A war of words between two of Liddell’s long-time friends, UFC president Dana White and trainer John Hackleman is playing out in the media while he tries to remain neutral, but clearly caught in the middle.
Liddell, one of the most prolific mixed martial artists in the sport’s history, has lost four of his last five outings, including being knocked out in three of those losses.
White made several comments leading up to the UFC 97 co-main event between Liddell and Rua that if Liddell did not win and do so in impressive fashion, it would be the last fight for the former UFC light heavyweight titleholder.
At the UFC 97 post-fight press conference, White reiterated those sentiments citing concerns for Liddell’s health, “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.”
Liddell wasn’t quite ready to fully commit to the idea of retirement at the time. “That’s probably safe to say,” he said about whether he agreed with White’s sentiments, before adding 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.”
And he hasn’t rushed in to a decision. It has been three weeks now and there still has been no public decision from the former champion. White and Hackleman have been the ones publicly discussing Liddell’s future, both adamantly of differing opinions.
Unlike White, Hackleman believes Liddell has more fights in him, if the 39-year-old fighter wants to continue fighting. “If Chuck was getting the (expletive) beat out of him by a bunch of nobodies and getting knocked unconscious all over the place, I would try to influence him to retire,” Hackleman told Sherdog.com on Thursday. “But since I don’t see that – Rashad was the only time I’ve seen him actually knocked unconscious – if he really wants to still fight, and I think it’s in his heart, I don’t think anyone, including Dana, should take his livelihood and his love away.”
White disagrees and believes Hackleman is looking out for more paydays instead of the well-being of their mutual friend.
“Everything Hackleman is saying is (expletive),” White told MMAWeekly.com on Friday, but insists the disagreement with Hackleman is not jeopardizing his relationship with Liddell.
“There isn’t and never has been and never will be a problem with me and Chuck,” stated the UFC president. “Hackleman is (expletive) up that he can’t get another payday.”
White maintains that Liddell is going to retire. “Chuck and I are working out how we’re going to do it,” he said, adding a note of finality to his statements.
Liddell still wasn’t ready to discuss his retirement on Friday, but told MMAWeekly.com, “I just want to keep out of it,” while two of his closest friends verbally spar over his next career move.