Talk about a love triangle. After getting wind of John Hackleman’s thoughts on Chuck Liddell retiring (or not retiring rather), UFC president Dana White, in typical Dana White fashion, held back little in response to the Iceman’s longtime trainer:
“Obviously, John Hackleman didn’t pay his house off yet. John Hackleman needs some money, because anybody who claims they care about Chuck Liddell even a little bit would not be making these f–king statements…How many great, talented guys do you see coming out of John Hackleman’s place? He’s no Greg Jackson. He’s no Mark DellaGrotte. He’s no American Top Team. He’s not one of the great camps. Chuck Liddell made him.”
White and Hackleman also seem to have very different ideas about what Liddell’s life after fighting would look like. According to Dana, Chuck will “be with the UFC forever” and will hopefully “do regulatory stuff with Marc Ratner.” Whereas Hackleman believes that if in fact Liddell wants to call it quits (which he still contends is unnecessary at this time) then he will spend his days teaching at Hackleman’s gym, The Pit. Hackleman also did not rule out the notion of Liddell competing for another promotion “if he has to.”
As a child of divorce whose parents had joint custody, I know all too well how out of hand things can get when two people who think they have your best interests at heart disagree so profoundly. Perhaps the war Dana mentioned previously is looming after all…
Of course it would be nice if Liddell just came forward and officially dispensed his own thoughts on his future, but it looks like that won’t happen until it absolutely has to, if at all.
The problem here is bias. Both White and Hackleman call themselves dear friends of Liddell’s, yet both have personal interests at stake. Dana White would like to protect a bona fide UFC legend from tarnishing his legacy like so many other foolish hangers-on have and continue to do. John Hackleman, as White so eloquently spouted, has no other marquis fighters in his stable to bring recognition to his gym, which is essentially his livelihood.
Maybe Hackleman truly believes that Liddell can continue his MMA career without damaging his body or his name, or maybe he’s just trying to earn an extra buck while he still can. And maybe Dana White truly believes that Liddell should retire because it’s simply too hazardous for him to compete at this point, or maybe he’s just holding that last contracted fight over Liddell’s head (a la Tito Ortiz) to make sure that Chuck cannot draw crowds outside of the Zuffa banner.
Whatever the case, I think Liddell should keep in mind that even the best of friends can become vultures when there’s money involved, especially this kind of money. Just ask Don King’s many friends.