Oh No, Chuck Liddell Is Talking About A Comeback
Earlier this week, UFC Hall Of Famer, and former light heavyweight champion, Chuck Liddell made the announcement that he was coming out of retirement to fight Tito Ortiz. There had been on-and-off rumblings about a potential third fight between the two rivals for years, though there were never serious indications such a fight was actually going to materialise. To make matters stranger, Oscar de la Hoya — who has recently claimed to be entering the world of MMA — is the apparent promoter for this proposed fight.
Nothing about this feels right. Immediately, the prospect of Oscar de la Hoya actually going into the MMA business seems preposterous. Golden Boy Promotions is a successful boxing promotion at the top level of that sport, I don't see the business case for entering into such a highly concentrated field such as MMA. There is barely enough talent available to supply Bellator with a meager number of top 10 ranked fighters for their respective divisions. I, personally, don't see a "Golden Boy MMA" promotion coming to fruition; this whole exercise seems like an effort to troll Dana White over Zuffa Boxing.
There has been no event announcement, and so far all we have are some statements from Tito Ortiz and Chuck Liddell. Oscar de la Hoya claims the fight contract has not yet been finalised but, for the sake of the argument, let's assume Chuck is being genuine. The notion of Chuck Liddell fighting again — after being retired for almost a decade — is anything but a pleasant one to contemplate. Things only get more disconcerting when one considers that the last time Liddell won a fight George W. Bush was President, and his last 3 fights were all brutal KO losses.
Liddell's desire to fight again is completely normal; professional athletes, especially those who ascend to the very peak of their respective fields, rarely have an easy time transitioning to a 'normal' existence. In his day, Chuck was the biggest star in MMA; as the UFC broke into the mainstream, Liddell was the face of the organisation — the champion of the flagship light heavyweight division. After being convinced to retire by his friend and former manager, Dana white, Chuck was gifted an executive role with the UFC — what was, by all accounts, a six-figure salary for a ceremonial position.
It was only after WME-IMG purchased the UFC and began cost-cutting measures that Liddell's position — along with a similar role filled by former welterweight champion Matt Hughes — was eliminated (story). Since then, Liddell has periodically teased a potential comeback, but nothing as serious as his most recent statements. This week, Liddell said that he is unretired, and is aiming to fight Tito Ortiz before the year's end (story). Liddell went on to state that he wanted to fight Jon Jones at some point, just to take things into surreal territory.
First off, I don't know what purpose a third fight with Tito serves. I don't know anyone who is clamouring for another rematch; their first 2 fights were decisive wins for Liddell. It's not as if Tito has been running his mouth about Chuck since their last fight, making the optics look kind of bad. Calling out a guy you've already beat twice? If you tried really hard, you could probably sell a rematch, but why? Tito is a physical wreck at age 43, and Liddell is 38 and there is no way his chin has gotten any better. I don't think this fight would be as lamentable as Ken Shamrock and Royce Gracie's third encounter, in 2016, but that still leaves plenty of room to be depressing.
As a tenured fan of MMA, I personally witnessed the rise and fall of Chuck Liddell happen in real-time. By the time he stepped away, after being knocked out by Rich Franklin, many people — myself included — argued that even then he had stuck around too long. In his prime, Liddell's hallmark was his devastating overhand right and his chin, and the latter had failed him routinely since Quinton Jackson knocked him out and took his title at UFC 71. There is no way Chuck's ability to take punches has improved in the past 8 years, and taking further punishment seems extremely ill advised. The talk of fighting Jon Jones was ludicrous and doesn't warrant further comment.
There is definitely some value in a Chuck Liddell comeback fight, but I don't know how much. It has been 12 years since Chuck has won a fight, and 8 since he last competed. I honestly don't know how much value his name carries in the modern MMA landscape. Without an event, or a booked fight it's impossible to speculate on Chuck's drawing power in 2018. If Bellator were promoting it, I could see Chuck's return doing strong TV ratings, but a pay-per-view does not seem feasible to me. There may be money to be made, but I am hoping this is all bluster from de la Hoya, and this dies on the vine.
Published: May 17th, 2018.