Chuck Liddell Two-Stepping to Gain MMA Popularity

Trent WilliamsContributor ISeptember 22, 2009

CULVER CITY, CA - MAY 30:  UFC fighter Chuck Liddell arrives at the taping for Spike TV's 2nd Annual 'Guys Choice' Awards held at Sony Studios on May 30, 2008 in Culver City, California.  The show airs on June 22, 2008 at 10PM ET/PT on Spike TV.  (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)

One thing I thought I would never say: I watched the TV show Dancing with the Stars this week.

You’re probably wondering what Dancing with the Stars has to do with MMA at all, and truth be told, it really doesn’t have anything to do with it, except for one contestant who is making the transition from Octagon warrior, to a tap-dancing wonder.

Chuck "the Iceman" Liddell has decided to throw his name on the list of professional athletes that have competed in the dance competition, joining such athletes as Jerry Rice, Emmitt Smith, and this season is alongside Michael Irvin, just to name a few.

At first, I laughed at Chuck. Don’t get me wrong, because he is one of my favorite fighters of all time and I respect him a lot even though he’s lost four of his last five fights in the UFC, but really Chuck...Dancing with the Stars?

Please tell me you haven’t hung up the four-ounce gloves for a leotard. It seemed like a complete nightmare at first, with Liddell facing much scrutiny and being laughed at a lot in the lead up to the show. I have turned away from that crowd making fun of him, and now defend him, realizing that this is the perfect career move for Chuck and helps the UFC out as well.

Like I previously mentioned, Chuck has dropped four of his last five fights, and those losses have not been pretty to say the least. He is becoming a more irrelevant in the fight game as many feel he is washed up now and is past his prime. Even his close friend, and UFC president, Dana White has come out and said that Chuck needs to retire.

So, why is Dancing with the Stars a great move for the Iceman? Simply stated, it keeps his name out there, and keeps him as a relevant figure. He’s taking at least a year off from fighting he says and then is going to make a decision on his fight career, which is a good choice.

While doing DWTS, Liddell has a chance to be in the spotlight and in the mainstream for several weeks, until he is voted out or wins the show. For reasons beyond my knowledge, this show brings in a mass amount of viewers and great ratings. It also reaches out to a different demographic for viewers that may not know about the UFC or MMA, bringing more fans to the sport.

On the opening night Dana White and the other Zuffa owners, the Fertitta brothers, were on hand, front row and very noticeable in the audience to see Chuck dance. I am sure Dana and the UFC brass are drooling at the fact that Chuck has managed to bridge the gap and expand out to a demographic other then the 18-35 male group.

Don’t get me wrong here though, I don’t expect the UFC to suddenly get a boatload of fans, just from the DWTS watchers wondering what the UFC is all about. What it will though do is bring MMA more mainstream.

One of the biggest hurdles in the sport is getting people to understand what it is all about. The sport is still not legal in all States and Provinces. With Chuck showing his more "graceful" side to the world, it may come off as soft, but what it will also do is show that fighters, especially a handlebar wearing fighter with a mohawk hairstyle isn’t just a mean goon who gets into bar fights in his off time to train.

He’s a real person too, and just because he fights doesn’t mean he’s some sort of savage beast and that he doesn’t compete in "human cockfighting."

In the end it’s kudos to you Chuck, and kudos to the UFC for letting him take this opportunity. If everything plays out the way it should, the UFC, and the career of Chuck Liddell, will benefit.

That is, until he gets voted off and lands a left hook on one of the show’s judges.