In recent weeks, the MMA world has seen several high-profile fighters announce their retirements from the sport, admitting that their time has come and gone.
First, former UFC Middleweight Champion Michael Bisping walked away, citing health concerns. Then, former Light Heavyweight Champion Rashad Evans called it quits, following his fifth consecutive loss. After that, former welterweight title challenger Josh Koscheck declared himself retired, saying that he just didn’t have it anymore. If that wasn’t enough, former Welterweight Champion Johny Hendricks hung up his gloves, following an ill-fated run at middleweight.
If you thought all these retirements were an indicator of fighters knowing when to get out, think again.
It was announced on Monday that former UFC Light Heavyweight Champions Chuck Liddell and Tito Ortiz had officially signed a deal to fight under Oscar De La Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions banner later this year. It will be Golden Boy’s first venture into MMA.
I know what you’re thinking, and no, you aren’t in a time machine. It is not 2006. This is really happening in 2018.
The two legends played a major role in the UFC boom of the early 2000’s, serving as one of MMA’s biggest rivalries. They fought twice, once at UFC 47 and again at UFC 66. Liddell won both fights via TKO.
However, times have changed.
Liddell hasn’t fought since 2010, retiring on the heels of three-straight knockout losses. Ortiz, on the other hand, last competed in 2017, submitting Chael Sonnen at Bellator 170. Because of this, as well as the fact that Liddell’s later career was rather difficult to watch, Ortiz is expected to open as a major betting favourite.
As for the event itself, De La Hoya said that the date and location is still being sorted out. However, considering De La Hoya’s history with the sport of MMA, his motives are rather suspect.
In the buildup to the Mayweather-McGregor fight, the fighter-turned-promoter was a vocal critic of the contest, saying that the circus was “disrespecting the sport of boxing.” He later engaged in a war of words with UFC President Dana White, and called the entire event a scam.
De La Hoya, of course, was the promoter of the GGG-Canelo matchup a mere three weeks later. Mayweather-McGregor generated over 4 million pay-per-view buys, while GGG-Canelo generated over 1 million.
If this is some sort of vendetta launched against White, Liddell is the perfect pawn. Liddell and White have been close friends for years. After asking ‘The Iceman’ to retire, White and the UFC gave him a job for life as Vice President of Business Development… Until WME-IMG let him go in December of 2016.
Announcing his intentions for a comeback on Ariel Helwani’s MMA Hour in May, Liddell said, of White’s opinion, “With all due respect, yeah, leave it alone. Leave me alone. You promised something to me for a long time and it’s gone. But it’s not even that. I want to fight. I miss everything.”
There is no doubt Liddell’s desire to fight is still there. It is what made him one of MMA’s biggest stars in the first place. However, De La Hoya will ultimately be the one benefiting from the bout.
Whether you agree with the bout (you shouldn’t), or you don’t, we will all undoubtedly be watching.
With all that has gone on this week, the Liddell-Ortiz trilogy fight begs the question:
Have we really seen the last of those who have recently walked away?