Shortly after announcing his official return to the fight game, the 48-year-old Liddell told MMA Fighting’s Ariel Helwani that his perfect scenario for his MMA comeback would be “two good warm-up fights then I’d like a shot at Jon Jones.” Not surprisingly, such a bold statement quickly caught the ears of Jones, who wrote on Twitter that he would “literally fly [Liddell] out to Albuquerque this weekend” and plainly told the Hall of Famer “come get it.”
The social media exchange reignited the long-simmering feud between Liddell and Jones, as the two former UFC light heavyweight champions have since traded numerous jabs on Twitter. And while Liddell’s longtime head coach John Hackleman is willing to support “The Iceman” in his comeback plans, Hackleman isn’t a fan of what’s going on between his star pupil and the man who many people consider to be one of the greatest fighters of all-time.
“It’s kinda awkward,” Hackleman said Monday on The MMA Hour. “I mean, it’s an awkward back-and-forth. I don’t like it.”
Hackleman’s response was telling when the topic of Jones first arose.
Asked if Tito Ortiz likely being Liddell’s first opponent back alleviated any of Hackleman’s concerns about his comeback, rather than Liddell’s first opponent being Jones, Hackleman nearly spit out his drink due to laughter. “That was brutal, bro,” Hackleman said. “That was brutal. That was uncalled for. Oh my God, don’t go there.” Later in the conversation, Hackleman admitted that Liddell’s desire to fight Jones was “pushing it a little too far on that edge right now.”
But aside from the obvious problems with a 48-year-old fighter who has been retired for eight years wanting to challenge himself against a 30-year-old ex-champion who is in the prime of his career, Hackleman doesn’t like the Jones rivalry for another reason as well.
“I don’t like that kind of meanness,” Hackleman said. “Like, I love when guys go back and forth in a fun way, like ‘Rampage’ used to, or even like Chael Sonnen used to. I like that kind of funny stuff. Or McGregor, he used to. But then they push it too far, and to me, it gets mean and mean-spirited, and it just takes away from everything and it doesn’t put anything into this martial art based sport. I think it takes away from it. So I don’t really like it.
“Jones [saying], ‘Oh, I don’t mean to disrespect my elders,’ and stuff like that — I mean, if Chuck says, ‘I think I could’ve beaten him in my prime,’ that’s not a putdown. So then to say, ‘Well, I don’t disrespect my elders,’ I mean, that’s kind of a backhanded slap and that’s disrespectful. If guys want to do that, it makes them look a little lower, then that’s fine. But I think, Chuck — I’ve never heard Chuck say mean things about people. He could say, ‘I think I could beat him,’ or, ‘I’d like to fight him,’ but I’ve never heard him doing the putdown thing like some of the guys like to do, and I just don’t like it. I think it minimizes our sport.”