CRIDER’S TAKE: Golden Boy MMA the Senior PGA of cage fighting?

Aaron Crider, mmatorch contributor

Chuck Liddell (photo credit Joe Camporeale © USA Today Sports)

With boxing legend Oscar De La Hoya hinting about getting into MMA promoting, Aaron Crider makes the case against using retired MMA icons.

Oscar De La Hoya wants to get into the mixed martial arts game. Only problem is that the Ultimate Fighting Championship and Bellator MMA are the promotional kings of the sport.

However, it looks like De La Hoya is taking a unique approach to getting his promotion off the ground, specifically looking to sign former UFC light heavyweight champion Chuck Liddell.

There is no questioning the athleticism of Liddell. He’s tough and packs a punch, but at 48-years-old is well past his peak fighting days. And, if the rumor mill is true, Liddell’s first opponent could be Tito Ortiz, another former UFC champion.

Both men are UFC Hall of Famers. They’ve given fight fans two wonderful bouts in the UFC. Considering their ages, Ortiz is 43, they might be decent matchups for one another. However, it begs to question who else does Golden Boy MMA sign?

Dan Henderson? Rich Franklin? Perhaps Matt Hughes? Could Golden Boy MMA be the Neverland for formerly retired fighters itching to punch someone? That’s a tough sell, especially against the UFC and Bellator.

The UFC has become a juggernaut by gobbling up any threatening competitors and provides a number of ways for fighters to get looked at by UFC brass with The Ultimate Fighter and the popular YouTube series “Dana White: Looking for a fight”.

Bellator is the second-best MMA promotion. Its format follows more closely to that of former MMA banner PRIDE FC in that it holds Grand Prix tournaments in each of its weight classes. Its success has come largely from disgruntled former UFC fighters let go from unfavorable contracts, or after having enough of Dana White’s brashness.

Where does that leave Golden Boy?

That’s not as easy a question to answer as it seems. If its first signee is Liddell and its second would be Ortiz, it almost seems to be a place for fighters 40 and older to go. If De La Hoya is sincere in wanting to break in to the MMA scene, he would do well to stay away from fighters like these.

Unlike other sports where athletes can find success in their golden years, the fight game batters, bruises and breaks down one’s body. It’s a young man’s sport.

Dana White nearly begged for Liddell to retire in 2010 after a series of severe knockout losses. The concern was legitimate considering “The Iceman” had one of the strongest chins ever in the UFC until the end of his career, and, had he continued fighting, increased the risk of becoming punch drunk and left with long term health issues.

One can’t ride off into the sunset like Liddell did and work in an office job and then come out of retirement to fight. At his age it would only mean disaster. Would Liddell be a big draw and the sort of thing to get people to take notice of Golden Boy? You bet. Liddell still has the star power to draw fringe MMA fans, but is it worth the risk? No.

Golden Boy’s best bet to get going, and eventually become a competitor, is to see how the UFC and Bellator have reached their respective perches. The idea of signing a legend like Liddell is tempting, but it’s the wrong path to go.

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