Jenelle Schneider / Vancouver Sun
Sunday, June 13, 2010 | 1:25 a.m.
VANCOUVER, British Columbia — The sight of a 40-year-old Chuck Liddell lying unconscious on the UFC octagon floor in what will surely be the last fight of his career Saturday was no doubt one that only saddened many MMA fans around the world.
But not UFC President Dana White.
To White, there’s nothing sad about being fortunate enough to live your dream and go out swinging — which is exactly what Liddell did.
“I don’t have one sad feeling in my body,” White said. “He wanted this and he gave it his best shot. He went out like Chuck Liddell would. He was blasting and throwing bombs and he gave the fans a last, good fight with the Iceman.”
Liddell’s presumably last fall came with only seconds remaining in the first round of his headlining fight against Rich Franklin at UFC 115.
After catching Franklin (28-5) with a few good shots, Liddell (21-8) swarmed in with the same aggressiveness that defined him as a fighter ever since his first professional bout in 1998.
The only problem was Franklin wasn’t as hurt as Liddell thought, and his charge made him an easy target for a counter right hand that split open his bottom lip and knocked him out cold.
“I kind of got stupid standing in front of him,” Franklin said. “He looked like he was making himself tired though, putting a lot of energy into punches that weren’t landing.
“He caught me, but nothing that really rocked me. He follows up big when he thinks he has you hurt so I tried to stay tight and the lead hook caught him on the chin. I think he just thought he had me more hurt than I was.”
Although Liddell entered Saturday’s fight having lost four of his previous five fights, there was plenty of optimism surrounding his return due to changes he made to his lifestyle and the incredible shape he had got himself into.
Until the final blow, he did perform well, even mixing a few head kicks into his striking which fans hadn’t seen in any of his recent fights.
There was definite force behind them, too, as Franklin admitted one broke his left arm about two minutes into the fight.
“I was just happy the fight was over,” said Franklin on his immediate reaction to the knockout. “I knew my arm was broken and there was a part of me wondering what kind of strategy I was going to use to win the fight with a broken arm.”
In the end, it may have been Liddell’s faded chin that contributed most to the end of his career
While the counter right Franklin landed was an incredible shot, there was a time, according to White, when Liddell probably would have survived it.
“I’ll be the first one to say he does not have the same chin he used to,” White said. “You get to a point in your career and the chin just goes. I’ve been around fighters my whole life and you could have hit Chuck in the face with a pole at one time and it wouldn’t have knocked him out. He had an incredible chin.
“We all turn 40 and we all get old. Michael Jordan was the greatest basketball player in the world. It happens to everybody.”
Liddell was unable to make it to the post-fight press conference to formally announce his retirement. But White said he is almost certain the former champion will have no trouble ending his career following the loss.
While happy to have the win, Franklin admitted he felt mixed emotions after the fight — not wanting to be remembered as the fighter who send a legend into retirement.
“It’s kind of a bittersweet victory because Chuck and I are friends,” Franklin said. “I don’t want to be the guy labeled as, this is the person that put him out of the sport. I don’t like the thought of that.”
Brett Okamoto can be reached at 948-7817 or [email protected].