LAS VEGAS – Chuck Liddell’s storied fighting career with the Ultimate Fighting Championship officially came to a close on Wednesday afternoon.
Liddell retiring from the cage wasn’t surprising – it was a formality. UFC head honcho and friend Dana White had already told the world that Liddell was retired, that he would never fight for the UFC again and that he wasn’t going to leave and fight for Strikeforce or another promotion.
So the only question that truly remained was this: what would Liddell’s post-fight career look like?
The question was answered prior to Wednesday’s UFC 125 press conference, as White named Liddell the new executive vice president of business development. It’s more than just a token title; according to White, Liddell will be moving to Vegas to begin work with Marc Ratner on regulatory issues.
“As far as his duties go, he’s the executive vice president of business development. And the way that we work as a company, Lorenzo and I don’t walk into a room and start barking orders at everybody,” White told Heavy.com. “We’ve hired a team of executives who we respect. We want their input and we want to know what they have to say. And Chuck Liddell is now a part of that team.”
Liddell didn’t appear overwhelmed with his new role, but White is visibly relieved. His friendship with Liddell goes back to the pre-Zuffa era, when Liddell was trying to make his name in the world of mixed martial arts and White served as his manager. The pair would go on to make millions of dollars together, turning Liddell into the sport’s biggest superstar and White into the frontman for one of the fastest-growing sports in the world.
But after losing five of his last six fights (and the last three by knockout), Liddell finally realized that his fighting days were through.
“I can’t take a shot any more,” Liddell said of his once-legendary chin. “I can fight in the gym and and I love fighting, but it’s time. I’d keep fighting forever if I could, but it’s time.”
To say that White has an emotional investment in Liddell’s career is a massive understatement.
“Chuck Liddell has been with me forever. I managed Chuck Liddell before we even bought the UFC. So he and I have been together for twelve or thirteen years, and the way that I look at it is that he’s always been in business with us, since the day we started. It’s very unique,” White says. “I don’t think there’s ever been a fighter/promoter relationship like this in the history of the world. Through all of the things that usually put a strain on a relationship, he and I have stayed very close friends and business partners.”
And so Liddell will swap his four-ounce gloves for a suit, his training camps and workouts for business meetings. White couldn’t be happier to see his friend retiring healthy.
“Everybody knows that I’ve been yapping about him retiring for the last couple of years. It’s tough to go from being a huge superstar like he is, walking in with twenty thousand people screaming your name and all of the stuff that goes with it,” White says. “But I think I’ve got him in a good place now, where he’s going to move on to the next chapter of his life and his career.”