Throughout the years no organization has been more synonymous with mixed martial arts as the UFC and no name has been more synonymous with the UFC than Chuck “The Iceman” Liddell. One of the most feared strikers to ever step foot in the cage, Liddell is mostly known for his “hands-down” approach to fighting. Using his wrestling skills, which he honed as a Division I wrestler at California Polytechnic State University, Chuck became famous for his nearly unbreachable takedown defense, effectively forcing his opponents into a stand-up war. The infamous method was rightfully deemed the “sprawl and brawl,” as the “Iceman” would use angles to find an opening for his fight ending over-hand right.
Chuck Liddell is largely credited, in part, with helping to make the UFC the mega success it is today. Although the UFC held its first event in 1993, Chuck would make his octagon debut five years later at UFC 17, with a decision win over Noe Hernandez. In his follow-up bout at UFC 19 Liddell faced Jeremy Horn, a bout that did not end in the “Iceman’s” favor, losing by submission due to an arm triangle choke.
While some may have been discouraged by the early career loss, it seemed to ignite something inside Liddell. Just six months later he made his return at UFC 22, knocking out Paul Jones at just 3:53 of the first round. The victory marked the beginning of a seven fight win streak in the UFC before eventually being derailed by fellow UFC veteran Randy Couture. Following his loss to Couture, Chuck would go another seven fights unbeaten, winning all seven by knockout and effectively avenging both of his UFC losses.
Notably, Liddell holds victories over Guy Mezger, Kevin Randlemen, Vitor Belfort, Tito Ortiz (twice), Renato Sobral (twice), Jeremy Horn, Murilo Bustamante, Alistair Overeem, Wanderlei Silva, and Randy Couture (twice).
Today, the former light-heavyweight champion holds a record of 21-8-0. While still an accomplished record, the “Iceman” has added five of those eight losses over the course of his last six fights, four of which came by knockout. Liddell’s unfortunate losing streak has lead many to believe it is time for the hall of famer to hang it up.
Chuck however, seemed uneffected by the notion of his retirement heading into his latest bout at UFC 115.
“This is the most fickle sport,” Liddell said. “You can be God one week, and the next, you just got lucky in the fights you won. Its that quick.”
The fans however, were not his only doubters. Among them stood UFC president, and Chuck’s long time friend, Dana White. Still, Chuck seemed undeterred.
“Look, we’re friends,” he said. “He doesn’t always agree with what I do, and I don’t always agree with what he does. I look at it from his side; its not from a promoter’s standpoint that he doesn’t want me to fight. He can still make money off me, and he knows that. Its more from the friend side of things that he doesn’t want me to fight. Still, when it comes to retirement, I need to make that decision.”
Heading into UFC 115, where he would face Tito Ortiz replacement Rich Franklin, Liddell showed promise. With the odds seemingly in his favor, a new diet and training regimen, Chuck was said to be in the best mental and physical shape of his career.
As the bout got underway, it seemed a new and even improved Chuck was upon us. Showing more variety than he has shown in years, he was looking for takedowns, mixing up his strikes, all the while stalking his opponent in vintage Liddell fashion, even breaking Franklin’s arm with an attempted head kick. As the round neared closing, Chuck was on top of the world. Then disaster struck for the “Iceman.” With just five seconds remaining in the round, Franklin managed to slip in a short right and just like that, ended the fight and possibly Liddell’s career.
This fight marked Chuck’s fifth loss in six fights, with 4 by way of knockout. At the post-fight press conference Chuck’s career once again came into question. When asked if this was it for the UFC veteran, Dana replied “Yeah, I hope he agrees, and I don’t think he won’t.”
Dana asserts that though Liddel’s fighting career is likely over, that he will always have a place in the organization.
“We had a dream that it was going to be like this, and we’re living it and it happened,” he noted. “He actually lived inside that window, and I have not one sad feeling in my body at all. We did it. We did it, he was a part of it, and he’ll always be a part of it.”
Today, just over three weeks removed from his knockout loss to Rich Franklin, Liddell has still not confirmed nor denied his retirement. However, White has went on record on more than one occasion insisting his days in the octagon are over.
Most recently, the two touched base on the matter over dinner, and while the “Iceman’s” future continues to remain unclear, White reaffirmed his position on the issue.
“Its always cool hanging out with my friend, but Chuck’s having a hard time with this thing,” White said. “This guy’s in this longer than me. He’s been around forever and loves the sport. All I’m hoping is that he makes the right decision, I’m hoping he’s going to retire.”
Chuck, however, may have other plans. Displaying the same desire and never quit attitude that made him such a great fighter, he believes he may still have some gas left in the tank.
“I’m still working on evaluating. I thought I did great before I was caught,” he explained. I have to look at it some more and think about it. I think I looked good and I definitely was in great shape. I could have kept that pace up for another four rounds, without a doubt.”
Whatever his final word in the matter may be, Chuck certainly has nothing left to prove to the world. A UFC Hall of Fame inductee, he has conquered the biggest names in the sport, capturing world titles along the way.
In the end, it is Chuck Liddell who will make the final decision, a decision that he is not taking lightly.
“There’s a lot still to think about,” he said. “I felt pretty good and I think I showed I can compete. I’m not going to rush and I’ll do what I think is best, I’m just not at a point to make that decision yet.”
Sources to be cited: MMAJunkie.com, FightLine.com, CagePotato.com, BloodyElbow.com, FightFinder, Wikipedia.org