Last weekend, Oscar De La Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions entered the world of mixed martial arts to promote the trilogy bout of Chuck Liddell vs. Tito Ortiz, a series that saw Liddell victorious on two prior occasions in the UFC. De La Hoya, a former gold medalist in the 1992 Olympics and six-division champion, has successfully promoted boxing since 2002, with Mexican superstar Canelo Alvarez as the top earner for the Golden Boy banner in recent years. Alvarez, who inked a mega five-year, $365 million dollar deal with the DAZN streaming service last month, is scheduled for a contest against Rocky Fielding in just a few weeks, another event promoted under the Golden Boy umbrella.
De La Hoya is a well-established promoter in boxing, but the world of MMA is a different genre and many were skeptical about an event headlined by two aging former stars. I penned an article a few months ago when this bout was initially announced and explained the potential pitfalls of a comeback for the 48-year-old Liddell. As of this writing, buy rates for the pay-per-view, a show that included some amateur bouts, aren’t announced yet, but early speculation is that the PPV didn’t have a solid advance because the original price of the broadcast was listed at $49.99 before it was reduced to $39.99 the week of the bout.
I’m not sure how the comeback fight for “The Iceman” would be a draw in 2018, and it’s a risky fight to book since it could be a letdown for the viewing audience. Sadly, it wasn’t a surprise when Liddell crashed to the canvas after one solid punch in the first round without virtually any notable offense during the contest. It was more than eight years ago since Chuck last competed in the cage, which saw him sustain a third consecutive KO loss and prompted calls for his retirement. A former two-time UFC Light Heavyweight champion, Chuck was the face of the organization during its surge in popularity in the early 2000s. His tenure in the UFC concluded in 2010 when he lost five of his last six bouts in the octagon.
Prior to this Golden Boy fight, Liddell looked slower when he sparred and had a noticeable limp as he entered the arena. Ultimately, Chuck didn’t have the movement to avoid Ortiz’s punches or the speed to counter them. It was very disappointing to see one of the legends and most important fighters in the history of the sport look like a shell of himself. As I said in the previous article, nobody wants to remember the Ali-Holmes fight. In some ways, it was almost irresponsible for the California State Athletic Commission to sanction this fight and for Golden Boy to promote it. There was no indication that Liddell was physically capable of being competitive in a mixed martial arts fight.
That’s not meant as any disrespect to Liddell, he’s an absolute legend, but he already suffered several KOs in his career and another vicious knockout at 48 years old could have many unknown consequences for him. With as much emphasis as there is on concussions in sports today, allowing Liddell to fight shouldn’t have even been considered. “The Iceman’s” longtime trainer, John Hackleman didn’t work the corner for this bout, which is another indication that it was obvious that Chuck didn’t have a realistic chance to be competitive against Ortiz.
Post-fight, the athletic commission announced an indefinite medical suspension for Liddel, which would require him to apply to have it lifted before he could attempt to fight again. All things considered, this wasn’t a good start for Golden Boy in mixed martial arts, especially considering that the only other recognizable name of the card, Tom Lawlor lost via decision in a lackluster fight. What exactly was entertaining about this event? A less than stellar under card and a main event that saw a legend get knocked unconscious in a fight that there wasn’t a demand to see and probably shouldn’t have been sanctioned to happen.
Since the event, UFC president, Dana White and De La Hoya have traded verbal jabs, which isn’t a surprise, considering that Oscar wants to attempt to take a piece of the pay-per-view pie from the UFC. However, you have to wonder if this attempt at MMA from Oscar was more of a response to the Conor McGregor/Floyd Mayweather bout last year that was put on PPV just two weeks before a Canelo bout than an attempt to start to promote regular MMA events. One of De La Hoya’s main selling points of his MMA project was that fighters will make more money there, which is typical promoter spin of a narrative. If De La Hoya is serious about a long-term MMA project, why not invest the money to sign some of the notable fighters currently in their prime after their Bellator or UFC deals expire?
Hopefully, Liddell wasn’t fighting for the money at his age and let’s all hope that he doesn’t fight again because it’s not worth the risk to his health. If anything, the results of this trilogy fight should be a cautionary tale for other former stars of Chuck’s generation that might consider a return to the sport for a big payday. Liddell should be remembered for his thrilling punches and tremendous wins, but this defeat tainted some of his legacy. More than anything, this was just a sad fight and it probably shouldn’t have happened.
What do you think? Comment below with your thoughts, opinions, feedback and anything else that was raised.
Until next week
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