What happens when you pay a fighter to retire? What happens when you stop?

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Buried in a 58-page pitch to potential investors was a plan for the UFC’s future that former fighters like Chuck Liddell might have been very interested to read. That plan included ways to increase profits through various “cost-saving opportunities,” such as tightening up certain “compensation practices.”

One such practice? The use of “long-lived consultants.”

That was in the summer of 2016, right around the time the UFC was sold to WME-IMG following weeks of denials, both to the public and internally to employees, about rumors of a sale.

Former UFC light-heavyweight champion Liddell had been retired for roughly six years by that point, all of which he’d spent on the UFC payroll. That seemed to be a big part of the reason he retired when he did. Following Liddell’s third straight knockout loss, UFC President Dana White urged his longtime friend to hang up the gloves, and he succeeded with help from the promise of a perpetual paycheck for a do-nothing gig as a UFC “executive.”

It was the first time the UFC had paid one of its stars to perform the service of not fighting, but it wouldn’t be the last. Former UFC welterweight champion Matt Hughes would also wind up retiring to take a similar gig (“one of those Chuck Liddell jobs,” he said once years earlier, while discussing the prospect of retirement and rubbing his hands together at the thought) in 2013.

Former “TUF” winner and light-heavyweight champion Forrest Griffin also got a similar role, as did former interim heavyweight champion Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira.

For the moment, at least, Griffin and Nogueira still have their jobs; Liddell and Hughes don’t. Perhaps not coincidentally, Griffin and Nogueira are both known for actually doing stuff relating to their jobs, while both Liddell and Hughes seemed intent on driving home the point that they were collecting checks for what they had done, and not what they were doing.

Still, for a time this system worked. It offered a solution to a problem. Pro fighters are notorious for not knowing when to quit. While promoters can refuse to give them any more fights, they can’t stop a competitor from stepping up with an offer to fill the void. If you care enough about an aging fighter’s health or legacy – or you just want to keep him out of the hands of another promoter – paying him to do nothing is an effective strategy.

Trouble is, it’s also expensive. The old Zuffa might have been willing to eat that cost, but the new regime was less enthusiastic. So what’s a guy like Liddell supposed to do now?

He seems to be asking himself the same question. On a recent episode of “The MMA Hour,” Liddell admitted he’d been caught by surprise when the UFC job that was supposed to be his for life suddenly evaporated.

“Life changes,” Liddell said. “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.”

That’s where it gets tricky. The whole reason the UFC was paying Liddell was because it worried that what he might really want to do is fight some more.

Now Liddell is 47. His last win was nearly 10 years ago, but that’s not a significant barrier to entry in today’s MMA landscape. Over in Bellator, the home of MMA’s senior tour, company president Scott Coker says Liddell would need “a battery of tests” before he could fight. Then again, when you’ve already promoted a fight between Dada 5000 and Kimbo Slice, you might have to forgive people for assuming that your medical standards aren’t that high.

If Liddell did come out of retirement for Bellator, there’s Chael Sonnen, beckoning him to join in a prolonged debate to be followed by a show of geriatric athletics for the enrichment of all parties involved. There, too, is old friend Tito Ortiz, who Liddell probably still punches in his sleep on particularly restful nights.

And you could see why Liddell would be tempted to join them, couldn’t you? Especially if he feels like the UFC paid for what was left of his prime and then dumped him once it needed to cut costs.

You have to wonder how the UFC president would feel then, watching his old buddy back in the cage, but this time under another banner. It’s exactly the scenario White was trying to prevent, but in the end he might only succeed in delaying it.

Plus, no matter what you think of the practice of paying fighters to quit, the experiment seems to have a limited future. Who would trade whatever’s left of their career for a cushy UFC gig now, especially since there seems to be no better than a 50-50 chance of holding onto the job?

That leaves us right back where we started, with a stubborn problem that combat sports can’t quite solve. Old fighters, when confronted with the question of what they really want to do next, so often decide that it’s the thing they did last. If you’re looking for a different answer, it’s probably going to cost you.

For more on the UFC’s upcoming schedule, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

Filed under: Bellator, Featured, News, UFC
Source: MMA Junkie

Scott Coker: Chuck Liddell would need 'battery of tests' before fighting in Bellator

UFC Hall of Famer Chuck Liddell is talking like he’s about to make a comeback in the Bellator cage. But if he does, it won’t be as simple as just signing a fight deal.

“I’d have to talk to Viacom about it,” Bellator President Scott Coker told MMAjunkie, referring to the promotion’s corporate parent. “He’d have to go through a battery of tests, and it would be a longer process than he would be fighting in January.”

Liddell (21-8 MMA, 16-6 UFC) recently welcomed a matchup with three-time UFC title challenger and Bellator star Chael Sonnen (30-14-1 MMA, 1-1 BMMA), prompting more speculation about ending his retirement seven years after a trio of knockout losses ended his UFC career.

But Coker said he hasn’t even spoken to Liddell about fighting as of late. Instead, he’s interested in having the ex-champ work with Bellator behind the scenes, as he was when rumors of a comeback first surfaced.

“I’ve got to reach out and see if (Liddell would) like to do some fan fest stuff for us and be in the community, but that’s it,” Coker said. “There’s no fight for him.”

Asked whether he’s completely ruled out the idea of a Liddell return, Coker said, “We really haven’t even had that conversation.”

Whatever agreement Liddell and Sonnen might have worked out on their own, it sounds like Coker will need convincing – and for good reason. Liddell’s most recent losses demonstrated a decreased capacity for taking punches to the head, a stark reversal from his earlier career when his chin was a huge advantage.

UFC President Dana White expressed concerns for Liddell’s health and declared his career was over after a knockout loss to Mauricio “Shogun” Rua at UFC 97. But Liddell convinced White to let him make one more octagon walk, signing on to fight ex-champ Rich Franklin at UFC 115. After a spirited exchange late in the first round, Franklin caught Liddell with a right to the jaw and sent him flopping to the canvas.

Recently on social media, Liddell has shown off an improved physique to indicate he’s close to fight shape. But he wouldn’t just have to convince Coker he’s able to fight. He would need to submit medical paperwork to prove he’s healthy enough to do it professionally.

For more on Bellator’s upcoming schedule, check out the MMA Rumors section of the site.

Filed under: Bellator, Featured, News, UFC
Source: MMA Junkie

If Chuck Liddell ends retirement, he says Chael Sonnen would be easy warmup fight

Former UFC light heavyweight Chuck Liddell is still living comfortably in retirement. However, he seems to seriously be considering a comeback to the cage.

Liddell (21-8 MMA, 16-6 UFC), who was essentially forced into retirement by UFC President Dana White in 2010 following a string of three consecutive knockout losses, says his fighting spirit never left.

It’s been more than seven years since the UFC Hall of Famer stepped in a cage, and while he’s far from announcing a comeback, the 47-year-old said he can’t entirely rule out it out.

“I’m never going to say 100 percent no (to fighting again).” Liddell told TMZ.

Hypothetically, though, if Liddell were to come back, there’s one fighter he’s repeatedly mentioned as a potential opponent: multi-time UFC title challenger Chael Sonnen (30-14-1 MMA, 1-1 BMMA), who’s been taking potshots at Liddell for months in hopes he’ll sign with Bellator.

Sonnen, who’s coming off a unanimous-decision win over Wanderlei Silva at Bellator NYC in June, is someone Liddell could see himself fighting, he said. Why? Liddell thinks it would be the perfect way to ease himself back into the sport after such a lengthy hiatus.

“Chael’s the easy fight,” Liddell said. “If I was going to come back, it’s a good one. It’s a good warmup fight. He talks a lot. I think that’s why he does all that WWE style.”

It didn’t take long for Sonnen to catch wind of Liddell’s comments. Naturally, he did his best to continue to bait him back into the cage (via Twitter):

For more on the Bellator schedule, check out the MMA Rumors section of the site.

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Filed under: Bellator, News
Source: MMA Junkie

Why Mayweather-McGregor reminds Dana White of Chuck Liddell's PRIDE venture


LAS VEGAS – Cross-promotion historically hasn’t been UFC President Dana White’s thing. There have been a couple instances that it’s happened, though, and Saturday’s boxing match between UFC champion Conor McGregor and Floyd Mayweather is one of them.

Many moons ago White sent one of his close friends and favorite fighters, former UFC champion Chuck Liddell, over to the now-defunct PRIDE organization in hopes of having one of his star athletes showcase his skills in enemy territory. The bout between McGregor (21-3 MMA, 9-1 UFC) and Mayweather (49-0 boxing) has many similarities.

“It’s very much the same, except for the fact that Chuck was fighting in mixed martial arts,” White told reporters prior to Wednesday’s press conference in Las Vegas. “I think the different thing I was thinking about was the ring. They were fighting in a ring. But other than that, it was the same sport at least. He wasn’t going up against the greatest boxer of all time.”

McGregor meets Mayweather in the 12-round, 154-pound bout at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. The event airs on pay-per-view for a high definition price tag of $99.95.

One of the upsides to promoting a fight outside the UFC is the fact White doesn’t have to hide his bias. He can completely and totally get behind one fighter and push what he believes makes them great and why a win is on the horizon.

Although Liddell’s venture into PRIDE in November 2003 ended poorly in the form of a second-round TKO loss to Quinton Jackson, White is feeling extremely confident about McGregor’s chances, all but guaranteeing a knockout for his fighter.

“I’ve been saying this all along: For all the people who come out and say he doesn’t belong here, this fight’s ridiculous and everything else, when he knocks Floyd Mayweather out on Saturday, what are all these naysayers (going to say)?” White said. “They’re going to say Floyd was too old. It’s going to be a whole other set of excuses. Get ready. Remember I told you that. A whole other set of excuses when he knocks him out.”

Despite White’s confidence in McGregor’s ability to pull off a stunning upset of the unbeaten Mayweather, he does admit to having legitimate nerves ahead of the contest. He knows “The Notorious” is taking on a tall task, however. If any fighter is capable of achieving the unthinkable, he said it’s McGregor.

“I’m nervous, but Conor’s the guy for this job. He really is the guy for this job,” White said. “I call him ‘The Unicorn,’ man. I’ve never dealt with anybody like this guy. … Pressure? It’s almost like when he shines the most. When the most pressure is on him he shines the most. He’s a very unique, special individual, and I’m very much looking forward to it.”

For more on “The Money Fight: Floyd Mayweather vs. Conor McGregor,” check out the MMA Rumors section of the site.

Filed under: News, UFC, Videos
Source: MMA Junkie

Conor McGregor's 10 most memorable outside-the-cage moments

Filed under: Featured, News, UFC, Videos

In April 2013, UFC President Dana White traveled to Dublin to receive an award from Trinity College. After accepting the Philosophical Society’s Gold Medal of Honorary Patronage, White dropped by The Temple Bar. There, he heard one name over and over.

“Everybody was saying, ‘Conor McGregor, Conor McGregor, Conor McGregor,’” White told USA TODAY Sports and MMAjunkie. “I thought he was a heavyweight for some reason, the way everyone was talking about him.”

Intrigued, White told UFC matchmakers to sign the 24-year-old McGregor, who at the time held the Cage Warriors lightweight and featherweight titles.

Once in the UFC, it didn’t take McGregor long to make his presence felt both inside and outside the octagon. Equally talented in the cage or on the mic, McGregor has become the UFC’s biggest star.

He parlayed that star power into an Aug. 26 boxing match against undefeated multi-time boxing champion Floyd Mayweather, a matchup that could earn McGregor a nine-figure payday.

Before McGregor and Mayweather meet at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, here are 10 of McGregor’s most memorable outside-the-cage moments.

10. ‘Chuck!’

Chuck Liddell and a young Conor McGregor

On June 7, 2008, more than 15,000 fans entered The 02 in London to witness UFC 85. The event was headlined by a catchweight bout between Thiago Alves and Matt Hughes. Alves won the contest by TKO in the second round, blasting Hughes with a flying knee.

One of the people in attendance that night was former UFC light heavyweight champion and future UFC Hall of Famer Chuck Liddell. At some point during the event, a young Irish fighter, with a 2-0 record, shouted Liddell’s name and grabbed a selfie with the seemingly stunned Liddell. That young fighter was McGregor.

(McGregor was 19 at the time the photo was taken, not 16 as he indicated in his 2014 post.)

9. Welcome to the big stage

Conor McGregor vs. Marcus Brimage

McGregor made his UFC debut at UFC on FUEL TV 9. He fought on the untelevised Facebook prelims that night and earned a TKO win over Marcus Brimage. A few hours after that victory, McGregor appeared at the post-fight news conference – a rarity for a preliminary card fighter.

Resplendent in a gray suit and bowtie, McGregor was practically giddy after he learned he had won the “Knockout of the Night” bonus.

“To be honest, I don’t know what’s going on here,” McGregor said. “I’m just up here hearing $60,000. I’m just thinking of what I’m going to spend it on. Maybe a nice car and some suits or something, some custom-made suits. I don’t know.

“Just last week I was collecting the social welfare. I was in there saying to them, ‘I don’t know what’s going to happen. I’m signed to the UFC. I don’t know. Blah, blah, blah.’ Now I suppose I’m just going to have to tell them, ‘(Expletive) off!’”

8. Mystic Mac

Conor McGregor vs. Dustin Poirier

UFC 178 marked the first time McGregor fought in Las Vegas. A large contingent of Irish fans witnessed McGregor dispatch Dustin Poirier at the 1:46 mark of the first round that night via strikes. After the fight, McGregor reminded everyone he had predicted a first-round knockout.

“I said I’d knock him out in the first round, and I knocked him out in the first round,” McGregor told UFC commentator Joe Rogan during his post-fight speech. “You can call me ‘Mystic Mac,’ because I predict these things.”

And with those words, McGregor guaranteed he would be asked for a prediction at every one of his pre-fight press conferences.

Since the birth of “Mystic Mac,” McGregor has been correct in his pre-fight predictions for first-round finishes of Chad Mendes and Jose Aldo, but he’s been incorrect on Dennis Siver (second-round TKO), both Nate Diaz bouts (submission loss and majority decision win), and his win over Eddie Alvarez (second-round TKO).

As for the Mayweather fight, McGregor has predicted a knockout victory inside four rounds.

7. Might as well jump

Conor McGregor and Jose Aldo

McGregor headlined his first American event at UFC Fight Night 59. At the time, McGregor was the No. 7 featherweight in the USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA featherweight rankings. His opponent that night was the unranked Siver.

McGregor finished Siver in the second round with strikes on the ground. He walked around the cage for a moment, then sprinted from the middle of the octagon and vaulted over the cage to confront then-champion Jose Aldo, who was sitting with his family. The meeting was brief. McGregor screamed into Aldo’s face, and Aldo replied with a smile.

After the fight McGregor addressed the situation.

“I don’t know,” McGregor said. “I just saw his skinny Brazilian head, and I knew they were filming him over there. ‘What’s he doing there, sitting front row?’

“They thought I was going to see my girlfriend. They must’ve thought I was a romantic. But I was going to kill that little Brazilian. But Pat, Lorenzo (Fertitta’s) right hand, intervened. And thankfully – because I like money. When fights happen outside the octagon, they take your money. And I want to keep my money.”

6. “Red Panty Night”

Conor McGregor

On Sept. 5, 2015, the UFC hosted the “Go Big” press conference, which focused on fight cards in the fourth quarter of the calendar year. Some of the UFC’s biggest stars were on stage for the event, including then-champions Ronda Rousey, Jose Aldo, Daniel Cormier and Rafael dos Anjos. Current champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk also waas there. But the man who stole the show was then-featherweight champion McGregor.

Early in the press conference, MMAjunkie asked Dos Anjos and Donald Cerrone about comments McGregor made about facing either of them at lightweight because a fight with him would change their lives.

“If he wants to move up, I’m here. It’s going to be easy money,” replied Dos Anjos.

McGregor did not allow Cerrone to reply. Instead, he picked up his microphone and turned to address Dos Anjos.

“I can make you rich,” McGregor said. “I’ll change your bum life. When you sign to fight me, it’s a celebration. You ring back home, you ring your wife: ‘Baby, we’ve done it. We’re rich, baby. Conor McGregor made us rich. Break out the red panties!’

“It’s Red Panty Night when you sign to fight me. It’s a celebration.”

5. You’ll do nothing

Conor McGregor at UFC 202 news conference

The UFC 202 press conference was full of surprises. McGregor was late. That left his opponent, Diaz, on the dais with co-main event fighters Glover Teixeira and Anthony Johnson for 30 minutes.

When McGregor did appear, Nick Diaz told Nate to leave the stage, and the younger Diaz did. Not one to leave quietly, Diaz shouted, “(Expletive) your whole team,” on his way out.

“Shut your (expletive) mouth. You’ll do nothing,” McGregor responded with, “You’ll do (expletive) nothing.”

Diaz threw a water bottle toward McGregor on the stage. McGregor retuned fire, throwing water bottles and full cans of Monster at Diaz and his team while UFC President Dana White and UFC personnel tried to get him to stop.

McGregor was fined $25,000 and ordered to complete 25 hours of community service due to the skirmish. Diaz received a $15,000 fine along with 15 hours of community service.

4. Going for a walk

Conor McGregor

While many of McGregor’s catchphrases and mannerisms have become popular among the MMA community (see: “You’ll do nothing,” “Who the (expletive) is that guy” and “Red Panty Night”), one has had real crossover appeal, especially among pro athletes. That’s the “billionaire strut,” which took off in popularity following UFC 202.

McGregor lifted the move from WWE owner Vince McMahon, something he acknowledged during a January 2017 pay-per-view interview.

“I’m thinking Vince McMahon must be pissed,” McGregor said. “I don’t give a (expletive) about Vince McMahon. I stole that walk, and that walk is now mine. And not Vince or any of those (expletives) over in WWE are going to do anything about it. That’s my walk. I created that walk. I made that walk. It’s amazing to cross into all different cultures, all different sports.”

3. Who’s that?

Jeremy Stephens

The UFC held its first event in New York in more than 21 years on Nov. 12, 2016. The promotion went big for that event, UFC 205, stacking the card with three title fights. The main event pitted lightweight champion Alvarez against featherweight kingpin McGregor. Alvarez’s belt was on the line, giving McGregor the opportunity to become the first UFC fighter to hold two titles at the same time.

At a September news conference at The Theater at Madison Square Garden, a vociferous McGregor stole the show.

When McGregor was asked who would give him the hardest fight of the fighters on the stage, Jeremy Stephens cut in, not allowing McGregor to reply.

“Right here,” said Stephens from the row behind McGregor. “The hardest hitting 145 pounder. The real hardest hitting 145er, right here.”

McGregor didn’t miss a beat with his reply.

“Who the (expletive) is that guy?” asked McGregor. “Who the (expletive) is that?”

And with that reply, an MMA catchphrase was born.

2. No doubt

Conan O’Brien and Conor McGregor

In July 2015, McGregor appeared on Conan O’Brien’s late-night show and fired a shot that made headlines, mostly because his request seemed an impossibility.

“If you’re asking would I like to fight Floyd, I mean, who would not like to dance around the ring for $180 million?” asked McGregor.

By May 2016, Mayweather’s interest seemed to be piqued and he allegedly started rumors that the fight was close to being booked.

More than a year later, Mayweather and McGregor announced the fight had been booked for Aug. 26 in Las Vegas.

McGregor, the man who joined the UFC while near rock-bottom, financially, now is preparing to fight in what could be the most lucrative fight in boxing history. That the fight is happening brings to mind a McGregor quote from the UFC 202 post-fight press conference.

“Every single person doubted me,” said McGregor. “Every single fighter doubted me. Doubt me now.”

1. Those threads

Conor McGregor’s infamous suit

At his first post-fight press conference, McGregor said he planned to spend some of his “Knockout of the Night” bonus money on “some suits.” Over the years, he has certainly done that. Those suits are usually custom-made and on the flashy side, but none compared to the pinstripe number he wore to the Los Angeles tour stop for his boxing match against Mayweather.

The suit, which was one of the main subjects of conversation after the July event, was not your normal pinstripe affair. If you looked closely you could see the pinstripes said “F**K YOU” running vertically.

As far as statement pieces go, the suit was a major one.

For more on “The Money Fight: Floyd Mayweather vs. Conor McGregor,” check out the MMA Rumors section of the site.

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Filed under: Featured, News, UFC, Videos
Source: MMA Junkie

Chuck Liddell vs. Tito Ortiz 3? Chael Sonnen would watch, but isn't betting it will happen

Bellator NYC headliner Chael Sonnen expects UFC Hall of Famers Tito Ortiz and Chuck Liddell to return to the cage – he just doesn’t think they will fight each other.

“I do think Chuck is likely to compete again just because I take him at his word and I know he wants to, and I think Tito’s going to have to someday,” Sonnen today told MMAjunkie Radio. “But I don’t think we’ll see a trilogy.”

After falling short to Ortiz in a January grudge match, Sonnen (29-14-1 MMA, 0-1 BMMA) is set to settle a longstanding feud with Wanderlei Silva (35-12-1 MMA, 0-0 BMMA) on pay-per-view at Madison Square Garden in New York City next Saturday. But the fight isn’t the only marketable rivalry at light heavyweight.

Ortiz (19-12-1 MMA, 3-1 BMMA) and Liddell (21-8 MMA, 16-6 UFC) easily fit the promotional model employed by Bellator chief Scott Coker, who frequently signs old UFC stars to headline Spike-televised events.

“I’m in for it,” Sonnen said. “I like fun fights. They don’t all have to be meaningful; they don’t all have to be contendership or championship fights. So does it make sense? I don’t know if I could argue that completely, but would I tune in? Yeah.”

The former UFC champs got the MMA world talking when Liddell posted a picture of the two facing off, harkening back to the longstanding grudge that fueled two pay-per-view title fights and a stint as opposing coaches on “The Ultimate Fighter 11.”

Instagram Photo

Things appeared to be moving toward a trilogy with both fighters coming out of retirement. But then Ortiz apologized to Liddell in what many might call an uncharacteristic gesture of maturity for the brash fighter.

Liddell, of course, has twice made Ortiz eat his words. But a third fight would be money in the bank for both fighters, not to mention Bellator, even if it’s unclear whether Liddell is free of his UFC contract, which was frozen when he retired to take a behind-the-scenes job with the industry leader.

To Sonnen, one of the sport’s most astute promoters, Ortiz’s actions weren’t those of someone looking to settle a score. He expects Ortiz to return to the cage some day, but against an opponent with more competitive upside.

“I would definitely watch those guys fight, but I don’t want to see anybody fight unless both of the guys want to fight,” Sonnen said. “Even if I’m on a playground, if one kid doesn’t want to do it, I’m out. Somebody needs to break that up. I don’t think that fight’s going to happen. I do think Chuck is likely to compete again just because I take him at his word and I know he wants to, and I think Tito’s going to have to some day.”

Still sour from a first-round submission loss to Ortiz in his retirement fight at Bellator 170, Sonnen would love another crack at the retired champ, whom he calls “absolutely terrible.”

“I think Tito’s going to come back a little bit down the road,” he said. “I think he’s still got a couple of bucks from (ex-girlfriend) Jenna (Jameson) left over and she hasn’t kicked him out of the house yet, and he sucks. I think he’s got a couple of things against him, but eventually, there will be a cash grab.”

It just won’t come against Liddell.

For his part, Sonnen isn’t suffering for any lack of motivation getting ready for his showdown with Silva. The loss to Ortiz sent him back to the gym with a mission to prove he is better than his most recent showing.

There’s nothing staged about his rivalry, though. Sonnen said Bellator would be wise to keep him away from Silva as the fight approaches. What could happen might light up social media, but also cost the fighters a few thousand dollars in commission fines.

For more on Bellator NYC and Bellator 180, check out the MMA Rumors section of the site.

MMAjunkie Radio broadcasts Monday-Friday at 1 p.m. ET (10 a.m. PT) live from Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino’s Race & Sports Book. The show is hosted by “Gorgeous” George Garcia and producer Brian “Goze” Garcia. For more information or to download past episodes, go to www.mmajunkie.com/radio.

Filed under: Bellator, Featured, News
Source: MMA Junkie