Last December, following the stunning purchase of the UFC by entertainment behemoth WME-IMG, a number of UFC executives and longtime employees were laid off from the company by the new owners. Included among those layoffs were UFC Hall of Famers Chuck Liddell and Matt Hughes, both of whom held largely ceremonial executive positions within the UFC as a reward for their time served fighting for the company as popular champions during the promotion’s early years.
More than 10 months have passed since, and on the 400th edition of The MMA Hour, Liddell addressed his unexpected departure from the UFC and how he has spent his time since parting ways with the company he expected to remain with until the end of his days.
“Just kinda trying to figure what I want to do,” Liddell said on The MMA Hour.
“It kinda lit a fire under my butt to figure out what I want to go on and do after I’m done, because I was kinda just coasting working for the UFC and just kinda relaxing. I had time with just doing a lot of things with my family and hung out a lot, but now I kinda feel like I’ve got to get something else going on and get a little bit busy, so we’ll see what happens. I’m not sure what I’m going to do yet, but I’m still playing around with movie stuff and doing some of the that stuff, talking about opening a gym, so we’ll see what happens.”
Liddell, 47, is remembered as one of the greatest light heavyweight champions in UFC history. “The Iceman” was one of the sport’s first mainstream crossover stars, a mohawked knockout artist who competed a majority of his career in the Octagon, compiling a 20-3 record until losing five of the final six fights of his career. Liddell was eventually shuttled into retirement in 2010 at the behest of UFC president Dana White, who served as a manager to Liddell in White’s pre-UFC days.
Upon hanging up his gloves, Liddell — along with Hughes and fellow early UFC standout Forrest Griffin — was given an executive role within the company which ultimately lasted less than seven years, but was promised to be lifelong position.
“That’s what was told to me, too,” Liddell said. “But it happens. Life changes. And I think at first I took it a little hard, but now I look at it as a blessing in disguise. It’s got me re-motivated to go out and find what I really want to do.
“It is what it is,” Liddell added. “It’s a business decision, you know? They made a business decision and that’s what it is. I was led to believe that’s not what it was going to be, but it happened and it is what it is.”
At the time, White explained the UFC’s parting of ways with Liddell and Hughes as a measure that was simply out of his control. WME-IMG and a slew of investment groups became the majority stakeholder of the UFC once the entertainment agency purchased the UFC for more than $4 billion in July 2016, and at that point WME-IMG had final say regarding the company-wide layoffs.
The $4 billion sale of the UFC was a remarkable feat unto itself, the largest price tag ever for a sports entity until it was beat out by the Sept. 2016 sale of Formula One. The deal made White and UFC CEOs Lorenzo Fertitta and Frank Ferttita very rich men, and Liddell doesn’t begrudge his longtime friends for their decision, regardless of what it meant for his future.
“Congratulations to the guys, man,” Liddell said. “They did a great job of building the sport and the company and they were able to sell it for a lot of money. That’s a lot of money. It’s a crazy amount. I wasn’t aware they were even selling. I mean, I heard the rumors and then talked to Dana, he said they weren’t, then they ended up selling a couple of weeks later. So, I wasn’t really privy to that, to what was going on, but that’s a high number, man. I’m happy for them, and they took a risk for a long time. Frank and Lorenzo took a risk for quite awhile trying to make it work, and it worked for them.”
As for himself, Liddell didn’t altogether rule out the idea of a comeback to MMA, although he said he doesn’t have anything in the works either. For now, he is simply trying to figure things out, taking meetings and getting back in shape while pondering what his next move should be. And not surprisingly, he still catches the fights whenever he has the time.
“I’m still a fan,” Liddell said. “I’ll always be a huge of MMA. I like watching small shows, I like the big shows. There’s just a lot of shows. And you’re spending time doing other things, it’s not easy for me to see every fight. But I still follow the sport, I still follow the fights. I’ll always be a fan.”