Coming into UFC 115 in Vancouver, it was a simple situation for the legendary Chuck "The Iceman" Liddell. Lose and your career in the UFC is over.
The pressure was on Liddell, having lost his past two fights, and four his last five. He needed a win against his opponent Rich "Ace" Franklin. After all, many, including UFC President Dana White, thought and hoped he wouldn't fight again after his disappointing loss to Mauricio "Shogun" Rua at UFC 97 in April, 2009.
White said that he urged his friend Liddell to retire. And with the long lay off it looked like that would be the case.
Liddell however would never say that he was retired in interviews despite the requests from the UFC to do so. The UFC even went as far as inducting Liddell into their hall of fame at UFC 100, which some saw as another sign that Liddell was done in the UFC.
Then Liddell began what now is recognized as his climb towards returning to the UFC by appearing on "Dancing with the Stars."
Liddell did struggle on the show, getting low marks and being the fifth contestant eliminated from the competition. Despite his lack of skills on the dance floor, it was obvious to anyone watching that the Iceman was in the best condition ever. Gone was his trademark beer belly. Instead Liddell looked very athletic and muscular.
Liddell's return to the octagon would become a reality when it was announced that he would be a coach alongside rival Tito Ortiz on season 11 of "The Ultimate Fighter" and that the two would fight at UFC 115. Ortiz would have to pull out due to a neck injury, and Franklin was named as his replacement.
Coming into Liddell's UFC 115 fight with Franklin, in pre-fight workouts it looked clear that Liddell was continuing with his amazing workout routine and was in the best shape of his life. Those around him said Liddell was as 'strong and happy' as he's ever been.
Liddell would need to use that to his advantage against fellow UFC veteran Rich Franklin. The week of the fight, Dana White said that Liddell 'needed to win or put on a truly great performance' against Franklin to be able to fight in the octagon after UFC 115 in Vancouver.
While Liddell did land some good punches on Franklin in their fight, Franklin proved to be too much and knocked out The Iceman with a weak punch at 4:55 of the first round despite having a broken left arm. The punch hurt Liddell so much that he was rushed to a Vancouver hospital after the fight it was revealed.
Dana White was asked at the post UFC 115 press conference if MMA fans had saw the end of Liddell's career. He believed that was the case and that Liddell would feel the same as well.
"He's done. I hope he agrees and I don't think he won't. Chuck came in in fantastic shape and he worked hard for this thing."
When asked how he felt about being the man to end Chuck Liddell's career, Rich Franklin said it was not something that sat well with him.
"It's kind of a bittersweet victory because Chuck and I are friends. I don't want to be the guy labeled as the person who put him out of the sport. I don't like the thought of that."
Despite having a disappointing end to his UFC career, the 40-year old Liddell will be remembered as one of the greatest fighters in MMA history. With his signature mohawk and tattoos on his head, Liddell is the man credited with bringing the sport of MMA into the mainstream thanks to his always dominating performances in the octagon as well as appearances in movies and television.
Liddell goes down with a record of 21-8. He held the UFC light heavyweight title from 2004 to 2007 and appeared in 23 fights in the UFC. More than any other fighter in history.
The questions now begin as to what's next for The Iceman. With his previous experience in movies and television, it is safe to say that though we have seen the end of Chuck Liddell fighting, we have likely not seen the very last of him and his trademark mohawk.
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