Saturday’s Liddell vs. Ortiz 3 pay-per-view presented by Golden Boy Promotions was a throwback to UFC’s growth period in the mid-2000’s. We had a nearly empty arena for preliminary fights, a heavyweight bout with two very tired men, some decent action with lighter weight fighters and of course, the main event featuring Chuck Liddell taking on Tito Ortiz for a third time. Watching the fight, especially Liddell, it was clear early on that he picked up right where he left off, and that’s not good.
Ortiz knocked Liddell out in the first round of their fight, Liddell’s first in eight years. He knocked him out, and not just hurt him bad with punches, but Liddell was put to sleep before he hit the mat with a combination of strikes, while thrown with intention to hurt, would probably be lucky to rattle most modern light heavyweights.
If the promotion of this fight was turning back the clock and reliving the magic of the first two Liddell-Ortiz fights, it was a failure. Most close observers of the sport predicted such a finish. In fact, all four of our contributors to our MMATorch Roundtable predictions for the fight called for either an Ortiz knockout win, a first round finish, or both.
Considering the outcome and the degradation of Liddell’s skills and demeanor over the past eight years plus, one would expect it would be an easy call for “The Iceman” to call it quits for good. But no such luck.
“I don’t want to think about that right now,” Liddell said at the post-fight press conference (via MMAFighting). “I mean, I’m not in the right state of mind to really talk about whether or not I’m done or not.”
If Liddell doesn’t want to discuss retirement moments after his fight, that’s understandable, he can take the time he needs to come to that conclusion. But it’s his next sentence that sets off alarm bells.
“But I felt good out there and I had fun, so we’ll see.”
He felt good out there – and he had fun. This may be the scariest post-fight comment imaginable. Permanent brain damage is not supposed to feel good, and it most certainly shouldn’t be fun. Promoters need to agree to not book Chuck Liddell in MMA fights ever again. Dana White understood this nearly a decade ago. Scott Coker showed surprising restraint in not signing Liddell after UFC cut him loose from his “job for life” in a round of corporate cutbacks.
But what does this say about us as fans? We knew it would go this way, and we allowed ourselves to get excited about it, purchase the show, and watch it anyway. With common descriptors such as “sad,” “scary,” and “wrong” being used after last night’s event, it was still entertaining. Because of this truth, promoters need to do better for fighters and fans need evaluate their purchasing decisions.
Chuck had fun, and so did we, but it shouldn’t have been able to get to that point.