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Liddell's KO loss is end of an era

Report by Andreas Hale
Photos by Ed Mulholland

When a left hand from PRIDE standout Mauricio Rua sent Chuck Liddell sprawling to the canvas for his fourth loss in five fights, it appeared that “The Iceman” may have seen his last action inside the Octagon.

Both fighters knew that they had a do or die moment when they faced each other. Rua is coming off yet another lackluster performance against Mark Coleman while Liddell was trying to rebound from his knockout loss to Rashad Evans. The victor would see his fire re-lit. The loser was in danger of seeing his flame blown out.

“Shogun” wasn’t ready to be casted off UFC island just yet.

“I did everything that I could do right,” Rua said of his first round stoppage. “I prepared right. I ate right. I dedicated myself to say that I gave a good performance.”

Rua was once the most feared fighter in MMA as his 12-1 record in PRIDE included impressive victories over the likes of Quinton Jackson and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira. But after being choked out by Forrest Griffin and barely squeaking by Mark Coleman, his future as a top tier fighter was in serious danger. One left hand later, and the only person in serious danger is Rua’s next opponent.

“My strategy was to fight three rounds with him standing up because I understand that he is a great wrestler and I could get very tired trying to take him down,” Rua said of his strategy. “I had to stand up and exchange blows with him.”

“Fighting somebody like Chuck Liddell gave me motivation because he is a legend and I admire him.”

On the other side of the press room sat Liddell. His decorated career was in question after the loss and he managed to do an excellent job deflecting one question after another about his future. The Bell Centre erupted when Liddell entered and exited the Octagon as if they knew this could be the last time they see “The Iceman” fight again.

“I love the people who respect what I’ve done,” Liddell said of the raucous ovation he received.

After the third retirement question was dished out, Liddell finally addressed it head on.

“That’s probably safe to say,” Liddell said when asked (again) if this would be his last fight. “I’m not going to make a decision until I go home and speak with my people.”

Liddell would leave the conference and head to a party for some drinks. This left Dana White to do as he has always done and “tell it like it is – whether you like it or not.”

“We sat down in Vegas and we talked about a possible retirement,” White said of a previous conversation with Liddell before taking the fight against Rua. “I love him personally as a friend and a fighter so how could I tell him no?”

But after this evening’s loss, White has to face the music for his good buddy Liddell.

“We love Chuck and he’ll always have a place in this company with us,” White said regarding Liddell remaining with the UFC to some capacity if he decides to retire. “What more does he have to do?”

Just then it seemed to race all through Dana White’s head. Liddell has been MMA’s biggest superstar. He owns victories over the likes of Randy Couture (twice), Tito Ortiz (twice), Kevin Randleman and others. He’s had four successful light heavyweight title defenses, and he’s won all of them by knockout. He’s responsible for bringing the UFC to the mainstream.

What else does he really have to do?

As “Shogun” heads back to Brazil with possibly the most significant victory of his career, Liddell stares the age of forty dead in the face after back to back losses. White knows what’s next. Liddell knows what’s next. It’s just a matter of who was going to say it first.

“My promotion going into this fight was like watching (Michael) Jordan’s last game,” White proclaimed. “It’s the end of an era tonight.”

“You’re never going to see Chuck Liddell on the canvas again. It’s done. One of the greatest in the sport has fought his last fight tonight.”

If it’s indeed true, here’s one to one of the greatest fighters of our time.

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