Widely considered to be one of the greatest Mixed Martial Artists of all time, Chuck ‘The Iceman’ Liddell has now “officially retired” from the fighting world, but he may be prepared to make a comeback in the squared circle.
The Iceman cometh?
Liddell has been back and forth about retiring from the cage for a while now. He may have lost his last fight, against longterm rival Tito Ortiz at the inaugural Golden Boy event (Oscar De La Hoya’s promotion) in November 2018, but even as recently as five months ago he was still “undecided” about whether or not he’d continue his professional MMA career. However, TMZ Sports recently cornered the MMA legend at LAX airport, where he confirmed that he is “officially retired right now”.
Liddell carved himself out an impressive 20+ year career in martial arts, with a 21-9 overall professional MMA record. Having fought on the UFC roster since 1998, Liddell’s exceptional performances, including four successful defences of his Light Heavyweight belt and his historic fights against Ortiz and Randy Couture, have played a pivotal role in transforming the sport of MMA – and subsequently the UFC promotion – into the global juggernaut that it is today. Bowing out on a high note, then, you wouldn’t expect an athlete of the Iceman’s calibre to have any unfinished business.
He is still, however, quite the regular at Jay Glazer’s Unbreakable Gym, having been a fixture there since 2014, so what is he training for? Well, how about a potential WWE debut?
After confirming his retirement to TMZ, he was asked about switching to pro wrestling to which he replied: “of course, I’d still do WWE…it would be a lot of fun actually, I’d like that”. And his ideal opponent? None other than The Rock.
While it’s unlikely that the WWE would sign just anyone who’s started their sixth decade on planet earth, Chuck Liddell is most certainly not just anyone. As we explore below, the WWE has had a long, close relationship with the UFC and the sport of MMA in general, so it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to imagine Liddell on the canvas (especially given his own collegiate wrestling background). And as the likes of John Cena, The Undertaker and R-Truth show, age really is just a number when you’re in superb athletic condition.
The squared octagon
As sports, wrestling and MMA have had a long and close relationship that has mutually benefited them both. Sure, wrestling predates MMA by some years, but two of the world’s best fighters that amassed for UFC 1 back in the day were accomplished wrestlers. And, as the sports became increasingly more visible, “the largest mixed martial arts promoter in the world” – which is set to become even more well known after recently partnering with a leading iGaming brand – quickly elevated to the height of the WWE.
For experienced wrestlers like Dave Batista, Ken Shamrock, and serial switcher Brock Lesnar – who remains to this day the only athlete to simultaneously hold both a UFC world title belt and a WWE world title belt – fighting in the MMA promotion gave them the opportunity to test their skills in, quite literally, a brand new arena. Even two decades later, the octagon still offers plenty of appeal to WWE stars, just look at the athlete formerly known as CM Punk, Phillip Brooks’ transition from that 434 day Championship reign in the WWE to the Welterweight division of the UFC.
It’s a trend that plays out the other way too, albeit with varying degrees of success, with MMA fighters like Alberto del Rio and Dan Severn finding a place in the squared circle after calling it a day on their cage fighting days. Look amongst the roster of current pro wrestlers and you’ll find the likes of Shayna Bazler, Jack Gallagher, Sonya DeVille and, of course, Shinsuke Nakamura all have MMA backgrounds. It’s even been mooted that the number 2 all time UFC fighter, reigning Light Heavyweight Champ Jones ‘Bones’ Jones will one day make a move into the WWE.
Then there’s the “baddest woman on the planet”, ‘Rowdy’ Ronda Rousey. This Olympic bronze medallist made the entire world sit up and pay attention when Dana White crowned her the UFC Women’s Bantamweight Champion of the World in 2012, and she did the same thing when she properly transitioned into her pro wrestling career, winning the WWE Raw Women’s Championship in August 2018.