Liddell's longtime coach, John Hackleman, mailed out an engraved invitation to speculate Saturday when he posted a photo on his Instagram account (h/t to MMAMania.com) that shows "The Iceman" hitting a heavy bag.
The real intrigue began, however, with the photo's caption: "Someone's back in training...hmmmm."
For the outsiders looking in, it is anyone's guess what, if anything, Liddell and Hackleman are actually planning or what Hackleman intended by posting the photo. But it unquestionably sends a provocative message, particularly since the notion of the return of one of the biggest stars in MMA history leaves a lot to unpack.
First of all, Liddell is 44 years old. He has not competed in three-and-a-half years. His career ended with three consecutive knockout defeats, the final coming at the hands of fellow old-timer Rich Franklin, who was paying a tourist's visit to the light heavyweight division.
Liddell, known for heavy striking and a brawling style, clearly lost his chin toward the end of his career. Further, those results in the cage are clear reasons to suspect he has suffered at least mild brain damage in his 29-fight professional career.
On the flip side, even considering the losing streak that ended his career, Liddell is 21-8. He defeated Randy Couture in 2005 to capture the UFC light heavyweight title, which he defended four consecutive times. His fights with Couture and Tito Ortiz remain some of the most beloved series in UFC history. His electrifying, knockout-seeking style and signature mohawk and mustache made him one of the sport's most recognizable athletes.
Much of that visibility remains today.
Adding further intrigue—and perhaps some credibility to Hackleman's teaser—is the fact that Liddell's retirement wasn't exactly his idea.
Though the final decision rests with Team Liddell (a team that hopefully includes some doctors), the teaser is sure to attract attention from fans and pundits.
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