Following Chuck Liddell's loss at UFC 97, the big question was asked by fans: Will the Iceman retire? The question is still unanswered and it looks like Dana White is in another feud. This time it's with Liddell's long-time head trainer and close friend, John Hackleman.
It is also no secret that Liddell and White have a tight friendship that goes back to the early days of Chuck's career when Dana was his manager.
After the fight at UFC 97, John Hackleman made a statement about Chuck's future:
“Chuck can do whatever wants to do. It’s disappointing. He lost to a great champion and that’s no reason to retire...He’s fought 100 times and only been knocked out twice.
We’ll talk about it in the next week or so but no one is going to tell him when he’s going to stop fighting. A lot of people thought Randy Couture was done at heavyweight and he went to Light Heavyweight and won a title. He lost to Chuck a couple of times then they said he was done again and he went to heavyweight and won another title.
It’s up to Chuck. I don’t think Chuck cares about his fights. He wanted to fight Tito because he didn’t like him and for some reason he wanted to beat Vernon White … If someone beats him he doesn’t like it but he says oh well, I’ve beat plenty of people. He doesn’t want a rematch just because he got beat. He’s the Ice Man. He’s kind of cold about that.”
Dana White had a very different opinion about what Chuck should do:
“Chuck Liddell is stupid rich. Chuck Liddell is done. He’s got nothing left to prove. He’s the most famous guy on Earth. I love him like a f***ing brother and I don’t want to see him get hurt.
There is no reason for it. He’s f***ing 40 years old man. These guys that are fighting now are young, explosive, fast f***ing kids who are well rounded mixed martial artists. There’s no f***ing reason for Chuck Liddell to be out there at 40 years old still fighting.
I don’t want to make a f***ing nickel off that ever. Believe me, it will be a f***ing war if he tries not to retire, believe me. I love him. He helped me build this business. We started when he was making five hundred and five hundred. And we had the dream of him becoming a big star and winning the title and making all kinds of money.
We did it all man. We f***ing did it all. We did it. We did it. It’s f***ing over. He’s 40 years old, it is over. It was amazing that he was able to fight until he was 40. That’s what a bad motherf***er he was. He has nothing to prove to anybody, period. It’s over. We did everything that we set out to do.
It has been an amazing run, its been fun. We did it together, we stayed loyal to each other the whole time and we did everything that we hoped to do and now its over. He can do it financially. And plus, I’m going to bring him into the organization in some other way and he’s still going to make money.
He’s been loyal to me and I’ve been loyal to him and that’s not going to change now that he’s retiring. He’ll always be a part of the organization. He’ll take on another role, he’ll still make money and he’ll be with me until the day we die….
I always say is that I’ve built this business using the blueprint of boxing, what not to do. We know that you shouldn’t be fighting past your prime, you know?”
Clearly two different opinions on what Chuck is going to do.
At the post fight press conference Chuck only had one thing to say about his decision to continue fighting or to retire:
"We'll talk about it Monday, Tuesday. But, this could be my last time."
In the following week after the press conference, John Hackleman was interviewed again on the situation. Chuck had still not retired and fans wanted an answer.
"Nothing has been decided yet,” Hackleman said from his MMA training facility, The Pit, in Arroyo Grande, CA. “We made a deal. We’re gonna go, probably this summer, to Hawaii and we’re gonna sit on the beach and see if we can decide then. If not, there’s no rush. He’s not under a time crunch. He’ll decide when he wants to decide. And nobody else is gonna tell him."
“Chuck just loves to fight, And if there could be another fight—if he wants one—and he’s under contract (to the UFC), then we’ll see what happens. If he has to go somewhere else to fight, we’ll see what happens there. If we go sit on the beach and Chuck says, ‘Fuck it, I’m tired of this shit, let’s retire,’ then he’ll just come teach here.”
“Whatever happens, Chuck is set. He doesn’t need the money. He got caught by a couple of great fighters, but I don’t see Shannon Ritch [who has 64 career losses] beating up on him, so I don’t think losing to the top of the top in and of itself warrants the outcries of retirement.
If Chuck was getting the shit 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. 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.”
Strong words to counter Dana White's statement but they speak the truth. Liddell still has one fight left on his contract with the UFC. Chuck still hasn't retired so he may be planning on fighting that one last fight. As far as going to another promotion, that would be shocking.
After Hackleman made it clear it was Chuck's decision and that it wasn't up to Dana, White of course takes it to another level.
“Obviously, John Hackleman didn’t pay his house off yet. John Hackleman needs some money, because anybody who claims they care about Chuck Liddell even a little bit would not be making these f***ing statements…
F***ing right I wouldn’t let Liddell fight for another promotion … [But] at the end of the day, if that’s what he wanted to do, I mean, what am I going to do? I’m not his f***ing father. I can’t tell him, ‘No, you f***ing can’t.’
Hackleman has never been a decision-maker in Chuck’s career. I can tell you this: He didn’t make Chuck Liddell. Chuck Liddell made John Hackleman. How many great, talented guys do you see coming out of John Hackleman’s place? He’s no Greg Jackson. He’s no Mark DellaGrotte. He’s no American Top Team. He’s not one of the great camps. Chuck Liddell made him.”
With that statement, White has definitely gone on the offensive. Unfortunately this situation is blowing up for no reason. We've heard two different options and opinions from two of Liddell's closest friends, but we still haven't had the official statement from Chuck himself.
In my own opinion, I can see a neutral course of action that should please both White and Hackleman. Chuck could retire and accept the Hall of Fame induction at UFC 100, and still hold on to his fight contract with the UFC and keep the option open for coming out of retirement.
In the end it's the Iceman's decision.