UFC President Dana White had been clear in many of his interviews leading up to UFC 97 that Chuck Liddell would have to deliver a good showing against Mauricio “Shogun” Rua in order to continue his fighting career.
Following last night’s TKO loss to Rua at 4:28 of round 1, White indicated stated during the company’s post-fight press conference at the Bell Centre that Liddell’s fourth defeat in his last five fights has marked the end of an era.
When asked by the Canadian Press’ Neil Davidson about Liddell’s future in the UFC, White didn’t pull any punches.
“… There was no mystery in this,” he said regarding what a loss would mean for Liddell’s future. “My promotion for this fight it’s like watching Jordan’s in his last game… It was the end of an era tonight. Since before we’ve bought this company, (Chuck) has been with me since I got into mixed martial arts. He’s been a loyal friend and partner.”
White, who managed Liddell before him and the Fertitta Brothers formed Zuffa LLC in 2001 and purchased the UFC from the Semaphore Entertainment Group, isn’t about to allow his affinity for the man who help put his company on the map jeopardize his long-term health.
“At the end of the day and I say this all the time, and the media likes to portrary me as a tyrant who terrorizers people, or whatever my title is, but I care about these guys,” he began. “I don’t want to see anyone stick around too long and I don’t want to see anybody get hurt. In the almost 20-year history of the UFC there’s never been a death or a serious injury.”
And to the surprise of no one, White continued by making the proclamation that UFC 97 was the last time fans will get to see Liddell compete.
“You’re never going to see Chuck Liddell on the canvas again, I can tell you that,” pronounced White. “He’s done. Tonight was the end of an era. One of the best greatest in this sport fought his last fight tonight.”
During the press conference, Liddell stopped short of announcing his retirement. He expressed his desire to wait until Monday before thinking about his next move but still conceded that UFC 97 perhaps was his last fight.
If UFC 97 was truly the last fight for Liddell, it will mark the end of a career that saw him accumulate a 21-7 record that saw him successfully defend the UFC light heavyweight title four times. Perhaps the most recnogizable fighter in MMA, Liddell’s storied career includes notable victories over former PRIDE middleweight champion Wanderlei Silva, former UFC light heavyweight and heavyweight champion Randy Couture, former UFC light heavyweight champion Tito Ortiz, current Strikeforce light heavyweight champion Renato “Babalu” Sobral, former UFC heavyweight champion Kevin Randleman, and former UFC light heavyweight champion Vitor Belfort.