Golden Boy Promotions, Oscar De La Hoya's team, promoted their first mixed martial arts event on Saturday night at the Los Angeles Forum. It was built more like a boxing card than a traditional MMA, with the main event almost in its entirety and the co-feature with courteous service. The main event in question, in some way, was the third fight in one of the most famous rivalries of the sport, Chuck Liddell against Tito Ortiz. To reiterate: this event happened last Saturday. Maybe you wonder how the hell this happened.
The combat sports are implacable, of course. Exploitation, absolutely. Completely washed and even remarkably injured fighters who get licensed to fight when they should not, is something that happens with a surprising regularity. And yet, on Saturday night he felt different.
Liddell was a nightmarish stylistic confrontation for Ortiz, his former training partner, who eliminated him the two times they fought, which were in 2004 and 2006. Liddell matched that enmity and his status as a light heavyweight champion to become the hottest star. Big UFC for a while. only to collapse when Quinton "Rampage" Jackson brutally beat him in his first title defense after Ortiz's rematch. Then that kept happening, over and over and over again. Liddell's ability to take a punch was gone, and he went from 1-6 in his next seven fights with all but one of the losses that occurred through terrified knockouts with a single shot. UFC President Dana White, who is a friend and former manager of Liddell, basically demanded that he retire and also gave him what was effectively a job that was not presented so that he had no worries about the money. For a wrestler who had done a lot for the sport when he was still in his relative childhood, it seemed a worthy retreat, if he was late.
However, two years ago, White and his high school classmates, the Fertitta brothers sold the UFC to Endeavor (formerly WME-IMG), and the "thank-you" jobs for the retired fighters were quickly eliminated. (The last fighter The winner of season 1 and former champion Forrest Griffin remained, presumably because the Las Vegas resident had decided to treat his honorific concert as real work and, in fact, performed at nearby UFC offices. Liddell had been making noise when he returned to the cage. and that only became stronger once he was alone after being cut from a job that, he said, promised to be a lifetime concert. And where there are two old wrestlers, ramshackle and marketable with what had once been a lucrative rivalry, there is always a promoter to exploit it. Well, explode they.
As much as a physical shock like Ortiz is, he usually looks like an athlete in his most recent fights. In his last fight, 22 months ago for Bellator MMA at the same Los Angeles Forum, where he faced Liddell on Saturday, Ortiz ran completely through the unquestionably past, but still basically competitive, Chael Sonnen. There is a long-standing circular debate about how forceful or not Ortiz is, but it is difficult to say because he has never been the most coherent speaker; he has minimal losses in attacks, with his last two losses by TKO through body shots in 2011.
Liddell is a different story. He retired specifically because he had lost all ability to receive a punch, and his problems in that area only seemed to worsen. Although he had really looked good in his last fight before the knockout, that was almost a decade ago, and he had lost his previous fight after eating a scary punch, precisely because it did not look like he had knocked him down. . Game-by-game announcer Mike Goldberg, apparently thinking the same thing, yelled oddly "OH NO!" When Liddell fell.
The question, as the fight approached, was whether it really would be much worse than the many equally sad "comeback" fights that had preceded him. Most of the really bad things, like the battles that Ken Shamrock, Kazushi Sakuraba, Gary Goodridge and Don Frye overcame at the point of no return, were not regulated. Liddell-Ortiz III was not on any show card of the Japanese professional fight: he was going to be in California, in a sanctioned and regulated fight promoted by a major fight concern. What matters most is the California part: the state sanctions more MMA than any other state athletic commission, has made numerous investments in the safety of combatants and helped coordinate the most organized amateur MMA program in the nation; The commission is headed by a retired fighter in Andy Foster.
But they're still an athletic commission, and athletic commissions have a tendency to be as vague as hell. Even California does things like suspend Alexander Shlemenko for failing a steroid test even though the pack with the fighter's urine samples came to the lab with fewer vials than was supposed and then tripled the duration of the suspension so that He told him his initial notice. The idea that Chuck Liddell should be near a cage in his current state is equally vague. But it was not too lazy for California on Saturday. It was easy to predict what would come next.
In fact, it had been easy to predict for months. A video of Liddell hitting the pads in the gym during the summer was worrisome, and his performance in open training last week was not much better. In the transmission, that was explained since Liddell had a striking style that did not look good during the work of the glove, but was effective in the cage. But as soon as Liddell started walking towards the cage, it became clear that there were more mistakes here than Liddell being a clumsy karate fighter. His gait was unsteady and unsteady, his movement of arms and hands seemed untrained, and his eyes were eerily empty for someone who apparently knew where he was. It was disturbing long before the bell rang.
And once the fight started, the image could not have been clearer: Liddell, whose mastery of distance was so vital to his game that he habitually gave the UFC a fake and noticeably shorter measure of his range to mess up preparation. of his opponents He barely touched Ortiz, who is not a master forward. Once Ortiz realized that he had nothing to fear from his opponent, he began to touch Liddell. Everything that touched him hurt him. The first really committed punch Ortiz launched was the one that brought his former training partner.
I've been watching MMA constantly since my father brought home a UFC 2 screener almost a quarter of a century ago. I've seen some shit during that time. Tons of bad, dangerous referees, from referees who allow fighters to be beaten to commissioned inspectors, routinely ignoring that a fighter simply told his coaches that they can not see and everything in between, including Paulo Filho, and even repeatedly, looking and talking to an invisible. The man during his second fight with Chael Sonnen. The mentioned sayings of zombified legends, which are generally celebrated in Japan, are among the worst in this sport. But the way Chuck Liddell looked on Saturday, and that he was allowed to fight in the condition he was in, was the worst I've seen in MMA that was perpetrated and sanctioned by an important athletic commission, theoretically respectable.
The abuse of Don Frye was appalling, but at least he looked athletic and somewhat competitive before James Thompson hit him with dozens of unanswered punches while the referee prayed for an answer. Ken Shamrock was allowed to fight well beyond the point where he should have retired, but at least he could walk in a straight line. Chuck Liddell did not belong anywhere near where he was on Saturday night. That the fight should be allowed to happen is a sham and a terrible cruelty for both this fighter and the sport. Shame must follow everyone involved in the struggle for a long time.
David Bixenspan is a freelance writer from Brooklyn, New York, who is co-host of the podcast Between The Sheets every Monday at BetweenTheSheetsPod.com and anywhere else where podcasts are available. You can follow him on Twitter at @davidbix and see his portfolio at Clippings.me/davidbix.