John Hackleman, founder of The Pit, and long-time trainer of UFC Hall of Famer Chuck Liddell, appeared recently on The Joe Rogan Experience. In it, Hackleman details how he tried to change Liddell's style to less than 100% offensive one, and when he decided it had been enough.
"Towards the end of his career I begged him not to so much and he still wouldn't," said Hackleman as transcribed by MMAFighting. "He would not stop bangin'. He banged 'till the end. He couldn't help it. We would spend hours and hours and hours. We put the little thing down between his chin and his shoulders to keep his chin down. To keep his hands up, I'd put weights in his hands, stuff under his arms. Hours and hours and he would drill it, drill it, drill it. The second he hit someone and just saw that little spark in the eye, that killer instinct would take over and he'd drop his hands to his hips, put his chin up in the air and just start swinging for the knockout. He'd forget everything.
"When his chin wasn't quite what it was? He didn't want to change his style. We didn't want to turn into a more cerebral game. He wanted to go out a banger and he did."
"Chuck, towards the end of his career, we decided when he was going to retire. There was a little controversy on that with the Dana White thing. All of us, including Dana, had a couple interactions. He loves Chuck like I do. He always wanted the best for Chuck, like I did. We were coming from different angles. I was the trainer and he was the promoter, but we both loved Chuck and wanted the best for him.
"He was looking out for [Chuck's] best. What people don't realize, including Dana, was that I wanted Chuck to retire from before he even started. I didn't want him to fight at all. Now he's fighting. He loves fighting and it's his passion. He's gonna say when he's gonna quit. I saw him get hurt really bad with Rich Franklin. Right then it was done. Right then I said, 'That's it. That's the last one. No more.' And he didn't disagree. Emotions ran high after the fight so we decided right that night. We said, 'Let's meet in such and such weeks. We're going to go hike 'Madonna' which is our mountain up there, and we'll talk about it and decide then.' We walked up Madonna and said, 'You know what? No more. That's it.' And we decided then and he came back down and announced it."
"I was always pushing for him to retire, but as a coach, to keep putting that in his ear? Oh yea, I'm a great trainer. I'm telling you to retire and then saying 'hit harder!' It's kind of going both ways. I kind of just let him, as a grown man, decide. Like I said, Dana's input was important and well taken. I just didn't want that always shoved in Chuck's face because I was trying to build him up more."
Check out Chuck Liddell's knuckles in the image below: