Chuck Liddell retired at today's UFC 125 press conference. Or, rather, Dana White finally succeeded in his efforts to force the former UFC posterchild out of active competition.
Something about the proceedings felt off to me. White, preferring the t-shirt of early-2000s skate-pranksters CKY in lieu of a simple suit and tie, delivered the announcement, not Liddell. And he delivered the announcement as a prelude to an upcoming fight card. The UFC has never shown a flair for pageantry, but this seemed like the kind of announcement that deserved its own separate event instead of being used as a teaser for a routine fight card presser.
Then there was White's attitude. He made the announcement with a Cheshire grin and boyish excitement. He had the look of a man who took great pleasure in beating a group of children in a game of Risk. Contrasted with Liddell, who appeared skittish, emotional, and full of nervous energy at the lectern, White's demeanor came off as unprofessional at best and totally inappropriate for the stature of the announcement.
It's unfortunate that I have to lead into Liddell's retirement talking about Dana White, but I think that says something about White, the UFC brand, and their relationship with the fighters they employ.
I never fell in love with Chuck Liddell. I've never been able to touch on exactly why, though it might have something to do with a naive rejection for anything co-opted by frat boy culture. I've always respected Liddell's love of fighting, though. Some fighters exude fake a love for fighting whether for peer acceptance or personal confidence. It just always seemed genuine with Chuck whether he was walking to the cage, running around screaming in the Octagon, or just watching fights from the crowd.
Now, Chuck's received a cushy desk job in exchange for his fight career. Dana White and Lorenzo Fertitta bestowed the title of "Executive Vice President of Business Development" on him. Fertitta explained that Liddell would be involved in new business and expansion, which sounds an awful lot like an ambassadorship for the UFC.
Liddell retires with an MMA record of 21 wins and 8 losses, with all but 6 of those fights occuring in the UFC's Octagon. He won the UFC light heavyweight title at UFC 52 from Randy Couture and defended the belt 4 times before dropping it to Quinton Jackson at UFC 71. He lost his last fight by knockout to Rich Franklin at UFC 115 in Vancouver, Canada.