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Long-time coach doesn’t want Chuck Liddell back in the cage, ‘but it would depend on the match’

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With rumors swirling, longtime coach to Chuck Liddell, John Hackleman, isn’t exactly dispelling the idea of the former UFC champion taking another fight.

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Retirement from fighting is a bit like quitting smoking. It’s a tenuous process that requires constant maintenance. And despite generally being for the benefit of a person’s long-term health, many do a pretty poor job sticking with it. In this extended metaphor, it’s been more than 5 years since Chuck Liddell dropped his pack-a-day habit.

The former UFC light heavyweight champion last fought professionally back in 2010, when he ended up on the wrong end of a KO punch from Rich Franklin at UFC 115. The loss marked Liddell’s third straight, all by KO, and it halted his competitive fighting career in its tracks. But, like almost all long-time fighters, that doesn’t mean that Liddell has walked away quietly.

In deep thought

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He’s repeatedly teased ideas about making a comeback, even going so far as to keep up a long-standing war of words with former champion Jon Jones - whose MMA career only started two years before Liddell retired. And lately, rumors that ‘The Iceman’ might make a return to the cage have been growing. Videos of Liddell in training have been making the rounds, and he’s looking as fit as ever.

Could the 47-year-old former champ be gearing up to take another stab at MMA? It’s not something his coach, John Hackleman wants, but in a recent interview for the Anik & Florian Podcast, it’s not something he’s dismissing either (transcript via MMA Fighting).

“Just like when they first wanted him to quit and he wanted to keep fighting, everybody was thinking I was trying to push him to keep fighting, which isn’t true. But like I always said, it’s whatever is in his heart. 3 million bucks? Who is gonna tell someone, ‘No. I’m not gonna allow you to make $3 million, which is more than most people make in three lifetimes.’

“It would all depend upon - this sounds so bad. Seriously, the people who know me know what a terrible mother hen I am when it comes to matching my fighters, but it would depend on the match. It would all depend on the match. I’m not gonna name who I would let him fight - well, it’s not up to me to let him fight or not - but who I would okay and who I wouldn’t.”
“But even $3 million, I don’t think that would be enough to put his life at risk and his legacy at risk. Because his legacy, not only for his own self-esteem but his legacy for his future earnings as well, could be worth a hell of a lot more than $3 million and tarnishing it to a certain degree, that might not be worth it. So it would all depend on the opponent.”

The recent decision to fire Liddell from his UFC staff position could open the door to many more possibilities, if he does indeed intend to take another fight. Dana White was quoted at the time of Liddell’s retirement, that he would never fight in the UFC again. Out from under contract, that should no longer be a barrier to making a comeback.

Bellator has made a spectacle lately, out of former stars looking for another taste of glory. And RIZIN’s Pride styling could open up some creative opportunities. It’s hard to imagine anyone putting $3 million on the table, but only time will tell.