By TONY SHUCK
Special to woodypaige.com
Nobody likes getting old. Period. Sadly, it is a fact of life. And while we all try to avoid the inevitability of aging, athletes may have it worse.
I mean, who wants to be told at the age of 35 that their skills are deteriorating. That’s the case with most MMA fighters. As they age, their skills fade, their speed slows and unfortunately, they end up unconscious more than they should.
So, who is responsible for telling these fighters that they no longer have it?
The Promotion? The head coach? Their family?
All three are correct. And yet we still see fighters well past their prime fighting inside an octagon. And now, two former UFC champions are looking to come out of retirement to fight yet again.
Someone needs to stop this insanity before one of them ends up dead.
The latest fighter to allude to a comeback is former light heavyweight champion Chuck Liddell.
Liddell was literally the poster boy for the UFC during its biggest rise.
As a coach on the inaugural season of The Ultimate Fighter, Liddell was catapulted into the main stream due to the season’s success. He followed that up by winning the UFC light heavyweight title form Randy Couture shortly after the season ended.
Liddell was everywhere. Movies, TV you name it, his face was on it. He was living the dream.
Then all the sudden it stopped.
He lost his title to Quinton “Rampage” Jackson at UFC 71 via KO. He followed up that loss by going 1-4 in his last five fights.
His last three he lost by KO.
Back to back to back.
In devastating fashion.
He looked so bad in his last fight against Rich Franklin, that UFC President Dana White had to step in and say that he would no longer book Liddell for a fight. Ever again.
To give you a summary, Franklin knocked out Liddell with a broken arm. Yeah, it was bad.
Liddell hasn’t stepped foot inside an octagon since that loss in 2010.
Now he says that if the right opponent presents themselves, then he wants to make a comeback.
I sincerely hope this is a joke or a media stunt.
Liddell is 47 years old. Sure, he looks to be in fantastic shape, but I’m more concerned about how his brain looks at this point.
With all the damage he’s taken over the course of his career, CTE is a very real possibility in his future. Adding more damage is only going to increase those odds.
Another fighter looking for a comeback is former welterweight champion, Matt Hughes.
Hughes was long considered the best welterweight to ever put on four-once gloves. That is until Georges St. Pierre came into existence.
But just like Liddell, Hughes ended his career with back to back KO losses.
Hughes is 43 years old. Even with his wrestling first game plan, he is in risk of long term damage to his brain is he comes back.
The only silver lining with Hughes is, he’s looking to make a comeback against current Bellator fighter, 50-year-old, Royce Gracie.
Seriously, do we really want to watch two old men beat each other up?
Sadly, the answer might be yes for most fans.
Bellator has proven in the past that old fighters can still draw. They did it with Ken Shamrock and Royce Gracie before. I imagine they will try and do it again.
I don’t understand the motivation for wanting to come back.
Did they miss the limelight? Do they need the money? Do they just need to know whether or not they still have “it”?
Ironically, both were recently let go from their office “jobs” at the UFC. I say “jobs” because no one knows exactly what wither of them did except take a pay check.
No matter the reason for wanting to come back, we the fans need to say, “No more”.
Fighters seem to not care about their long-term wellbeing. Hell, they fight for a living. What are we to expect?
Promoters are in the business of making money. If they can draw, they will be booked.
Families support family, no matter what. How are you supposed to look at you brother, sister, father or mother and say, “You don’t have it any more.”
It’s our jobs as fans to not watch the train wreck. We need to change the channel. We are responsible for the safety of these fighters. If we don’t watch, then they don’t get booked.
And hopefully, they live a little longer.
(Tony Shuck, an avid MMA fanatic since 2002, has become an expert on the sport. The 34-year-old Indiana native is a veteran of the United States Army, serving between 2002-2006. He was deployed twice to Iraq (2003-2004, 2005-2006). He is married and lives in Denver. Tony has trained in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Muay Thai Kickboxing. He is a student at the Colorado Media School, is a regular contributor to woodypaige.com and hosts his own MMA radio show, The Weigh-In, on Elevation 5280 Sports.)