Plenty of celebrities have walked through the doors of an arena to watch a UFC
event, from George Clooney to Robert Downey, Jr., to longtime fan Kevin James, who is so fight-crazy that he's currently filming an MMA-themed movie entitled Here Comes the Boom
Among the longest standing of the celebrity fans though, is recently retired NBA superstar Shaquille O'Neal, who has been to numerous major events and has openly talked about a desire to fight professionally.
Whether or not O'Neal follows through on his long-held desire to fight remains unlikely -- he is, after all, 39 years old -- but during a Friday ESPN interview, UFC
president Dana White revealed that he recently spoke to O'Neal, who voiced a desire to help the promotion as it continues its worldwide expansion.
"Shaq loves it," White said on ESPN's First Take
program. "Shaq's been training for a long time, and actually a week before he retired, Shaq called me and said he wanted to be involved in the UFC somehow. He's always been a good friend to us, and I'm sure you're going to see Shaq around the UFC a lot."
Just what type of role O'Neal would play remains to be seen. O'Neal certainly has no problem getting media attention, as evidenced by his official retirement announcement, in which he invited media into his home for personal interviews.
The larger-than-life star (7-foot-1 for the record) called it quits after a 19-year career which saw him win four NBA championships. He was a 15-time all-star, 2-time scoring champion, and crossed over into mainstream stardom early in his career with movie roles, music albums and television appearances.
In addition to all that, O'Neal is an academic, currently working towards a PhD in Leadership and Education at Barry University in Miami Florida. But that's not enough for him. As he told White, he's going to be looking for other projects, so he hopes to help the growth of a sport in which he believes.
"He's dead serious," White said. "He said, 'Listen, I'm going to have a lot of free time on my hands. I love this sport. I want to be involved. I want to be a part of it.' The fact that he's retiring ... he's been a part of this a long time. He helped us launch season one of The Ultimate Fighter
. He's always supported us and always been a good friend. Now that he wants to be involved, I'm more than happy to get him."