Hackleman respectfully discusses Liddell comeback plans
UFC Hall of Famer Chuck Liddell suffered three scary knockouts in a row, and was talked into retiring by president Dana White, in exchange for a no-show job, that he thought was for life. When then WME-IMG, now Endeavor, bought the UFC in 2016, the job ended. Liddell shortly afterward began talking about fighting again, and recently announced specific goals – he wants to fight fellow UFC Hall of Famer Tito Ortiz, in California or Vegas, in November, with Oscar De La Hoya’s Golden Boy promoting.
Liddell’s longtime trainer John Hackleman, founder of The Pit, appeared recently on Ariel Helwani’s The MMA Hour, and offered a characteristically classy response.
“I don’t like it, at all. In fact, I don’t like any of my fighters to fight,” said Hackleman, as transcribed by Shaun Al-Shatti for MMA Fighting. “I wish they were all just training at my gym and were having fun, and that’s what I started The Pit for back in 1985 and I never want anyone to fight. To me, it’s not fun, never has been. So, I don’t want him to fight anymore. But with that said, if he does and he really has to do it in his heart, then I’m behind him 100 percent.”
“I’ll do whatever Chuck needs. Whatever Chuck needs in his heart, if he wants me to come work with him for the fight, if he wants me to work his corner — if he wants me to do both, then I’ll do both.
“He knows exactly how I feel about him fighting. And he knows I love him and I got his back, but he knows how I feel about it. So I’m not going to beat a dead horse and I’m not going to be that nagging little b****. So I’ll just — whatever he has to do, he’s going to do, and as someone that loves him as a family member, I’ll be there for him even if I don’t like it. Just like, you go to your kids’ when they play their instruments in their concerts, you go. You go to all their stuff, their games, even if they’re sitting on the bench, you go, because you love your kids. I love Chuck and I’m going to do whatever I can to help him realize his full potential in his life.”
“When I do see him, when we do our really infrequent training, he looks just like he did back in the day. But that’s not against a real competitor. So it’s easy to be a gym fighter, and I’m not saying that’s what Chuck is, but I can’t judge how he’s going to react in the cage by how he hits a bag. But with that said, he still has a s***-ton of power and he still has his moves, and that kind of stuff is in his muscle memory. His takedown defense, his punching power, his fight IQ. You don’t lose that kind of stuff.”
“I have safety and health concerns about everybody fighting, but not him more than others. I mean, he was stopped in a few of his last fights, but to be honest, most boxers get stopped that many times in any given training camp, especially in the old days when sparring was much more full-on and much more prevalent in training camp. He hasn’t had a lot of knockouts, so that’s not what I worry about for him specifically. I just worry about that for all of my fighters, because I want them all to be safe.”
Further, Hackleman is not impressed with potential opponent Ortiz, who Liddell beat twice, both with strikes, in 2004 and 2006.
“It’s like f***ing the fat chick again,” said Hackleman. “It’s like, you don’t want to do it in public again. You had to do it, because times were hard or you got forced to do it for whatever reason, but you don’t want to keep doing it. And I respect Tito for a lot of reasons, but Chuck beat him twice already. He stopped him twice. And that’s all I mean by that analogy. I’m not putting down Tito at all. Tito is a pioneer and he’s a stud. He’ll fight anyone anytime, he’s done s*** in the UFC. I think he’s a great fighter. Chuck has his number.
“The Jon Jones thing, that was, like, pushing it a little too far on that edge right now, but Tito as an opponent — Tito is a good opponent for Chuck, and we know that just by the history.”