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JIM ROSS: "CHUCK HAS UNFINISHED BUSINESS TO ATTEND TO IN THE UFC"

By Percy Crawford | June 25, 2010
JIM ROSS:

"It breaks our heart to see our heroes divest themselves from what made them famous, but in the case of Chuck Liddell, I find in my mindset, and based on my WWE background, I find that Chuck Liddell could remain extremely relevant, extremely popular and extremely valuable for the UFC for many years to come...I think there are so many options for Chuck that it's not even funny. It's sad to see him go if it is indeed true, which I hope it is, but I do think that he has so many talents and so much skill that he can be extremely successful in helping build what he started. Chuck has unfinished business to attend to in the UFC, and MMA globally, that the journey is just beginning," stated world-renowned wrestling announcer and the voice of WWE Jim Ross, better known as J.R., as he shared his thoughts on Chuck Liddell's future, the possibility of other WWE stars crossing over into MMA and much more. Check it out!

PC: We left off talking about Bautista's potential in MMA. Are there any other WWE stars that you think stand a chance in mixed martial arts and are a lot of those guys fans of the UFC?

JR: I think it's the latter of the two Percy. I think that a lot of guys that are wrestling and performing in the WWE probably are sports fans in general. During football season, you will hear them talk about their favorite NFL team or college team of choice, or the big game of the weekend. And some of the same holds true for a MMA fight, or UFC fight in particular, when they have a major pay-per-view coming up, you hear a lot of the guys talking about it. I think that more of them are interested in being fans than actually being participants. I think that there are some guys that, if they had started early, would have had a good opportunity to have some success in MMA. Shelton Benjamin, who had a long run with the WWE and actually was another Minnesota Gopher, would have been really good at it because of his athletic ability and he has great wrestling skill. And when you got a guy that ran a 4.3 to 4.4 40 and was a Junior College National Heavyweight Wrestling champion and then went on to Division 1 success, you gotta believe that they have the natural athletic ability, with the right training and motivation, to be successful inside of the Octagon. I think Jack Swagger was another one who thought about it, but I think it came down to the point where he was looking more for the entertainment side and a longer career in pro wrestling than is normally found in MMA. I think there are guys in WWE that, if they had pulled the trigger earlier, may have found success in MMA. But I think in today's marketplace, you will find more guys who are just fans of the genre as opposed to dreaming what would it be like if they left sports entertainment and tried to get into MMA.

PC: I hope to not see Chuck Liddell fight again. I think he has done everything that can be done in the sport. The thing that sucks is he was doing so well against Rich Franklin before he got stopped. What are your thoughts on Liddell?

JR: Well I have been a MMA fan since they first appeared on pay-per-view TV many, many years ago, during that Royce Gracie era. A lot of those guys were quite an eclectic group of diverse backgrounds. They were marketing back in the day. Then, when the Fertittas and Dana White got involved and the formation of the UFC came about, I really invested emotionally in the product. And the guy that drew me to it, because he was such a fearless man with amazing passion and just a toughness that resonated through the television screen, was Chuck Liddell. I think Chuck has probably laid as many bricks in the foundation of the UFC as anybody arguably. I have been a big Chuck Liddell fan; win, lose or draw. The thing about Chuck, you knew that every time he went into the Octagon, he never phoned anything in. He always gave you great efforts. He wasn't afraid to fight anybody in their style or his and you gotta love a guy that can wrestle, but has the balls to stand in front of somebody and punch with them. I have always been a huge fan of his. I thought he won the first 4 minutes and 53 seconds of the first round. I thought he was looking good.

The question going into the fight was would the layoff hurt him? Then I heard he changed some things up; his lifestyle and his training style. He looked to be in great shape, but there was still that question of would his chin hold up if he got tagged? I think we got the answer to that, considering a southpaw in Rich Franklin with a broken left arm ended the fight with a right hand. And even though I get it, Chuck's hands were down and he stepped into a very solid right that caught him right on the button. I think all of the answers were provided at that time. Through all of the years, wear and tear, and all of the years of physical abuse, Chuck's chin is not what it was. The ice has melted a little bit. I relate it to this Percy, it reminded me of my boyhood baseball hero Mickey Mantle, the latter days of his career, hitting a ball in the hole between third and short, where normally he would beat that out easily. That would have been a routine in-field hit for him. Instead, he got gunned out and the play wasn't even close. That's not how I wanted to remember #7. I wanted to remember #7 no matter if he was batting right or left-handed hitting towering homeruns in any stadium in the world that played baseball. That's the guy that I wanted to remember. I choose to remember Chuck Liddell as that guy that had phenomenal heart, a dynamic right hand and knocked everybody out. I felt privileged to be able to see his last fight, if in fact that's what the Franklin fight ends up being. It would have been great to be there, but in a way, it was probably better watching it at home because when that fight went off on pay-per-view, I could disconnect from it. I have watched it again since and unfortunately, the results are still the same. He still got knocked out.

But he's done so much for the sport that a graceful exit is appropriate and timely. I think he can take that same passion, same skill and same charisma outside of the Octagon and continue to help build the UFC into a bigger and stronger brand. No matter where they go to build the UFC in a new territory or a new market, Chuck Liddell is going to be a great calling card and a great ambassador. I hope Chuck Liddell looks at it this way. He's had a successful career; it's just that one half of that chapter has been written and now it's time to either write a new book or to write more chapters in another arena so to speak. I see great days still ahead for him and he's a warrior. He's going to always have a warrior's spirit. That's part of his DNA. There is nothing wrong with that.

PC: Every fighter only has so many fights in them. We've seen it with Ray Leonard, Muhammad Ali and now we're starting to see it with some of our MMA legends. Unfortunately, we have to see it played out in front of our eyes and most of the time, that leads to our heroes going out on their shield. When Emmitt Smith didn't have it anymore, he may have rushed for 40 yards in a game and walked away. For fighters, it's getting in the cage or ring and seeing if you still have it and the result isn't the same as a running back or pass rusher deciding it's time to hang it up.

JR: You can take a guy that knew when it was time; I don't know if gracefully is the right word, but they did it in a manly way, with their head up and pride...I think of Jim Brown. He had 9 years in Cleveland and he knew it was time to go. The same thing with Barry Sanders. There is no doubt in my mind, at least as a fan, that Jim Brown had more carries left him, but there was something telling him that he couldn't be the old Jim Brown very much longer and he wanted his legacy to be remembered as arguably the greatest running back of all time. Barry Sanders didn't have lengthy injuries or ACL reconstruction. He was relatively healthy and decided it's time to go. It breaks our heart to see our heroes divest themselves from what made them famous, but in the case of Chuck Liddell, I find in my mindset, and based on my WWE background, I find that Chuck Liddell could remain extremely relevant, extremely popular and extremely valuable for the UFC for many years to come.

PC: Being that Chuck got in such great physical shape, but he just doesn't have the chin to allow him to get away with some of the things that he used to get away with, can you recall a wrestler that physically could still get their bodies into great shape, but just couldn't perform at a certain level anymore?

JR: I think that the only great wrestler of my lifetime that didn't stay too long that had lost a step, and even though he was still better than 99% of others in his craft, but he knew that it wasn't the same for him, was Jack Brisco. Jack Brisco was one of the few great wrestlers that, when he retired, by God, he retired. He knew that even though God had gifted him with amazing skills, from being a NCAA champion, losing one match in his college career to having an extremely successful pro wrestling career, being the NWA champion a couple of times, that when the fire went out, it went out. When he knew he didn't have the intangibles and elements that he once had, he said, "I'm done!" And he had the character and foresight to maintain that course. But unfortunately, in pro wrestling, the norm is more guys than not will retire, or say they retire or whatever, but they just can't quite give it up. They can't quite give up the adrenaline rush. And you see guys that are smart. The Rock, Duane Johnson, was one. He's healthy, vibrant and hugely talented. He saw opportunities in other areas and got out of the ring, hasn't been back as a wrestler, and more than likely, won't be back because he's making his mark in filmmaking.

And who's to say Chuck Liddell might not be...with the right role, right time, right director and the right script, he might do well in movies. There is no doubt in my mind that anything Chuck Liddell endorses that's MMA related is probably going to be a huge success. But I see as much as the UFC is growing and opening up new markets seemingly by the year, by the month, by the week, that having a guy like Chuck Liddell as someone who could represent them, along with Dana and their crew, in a spokesperson's way. I would think that as much as a student as Chuck Liddell was, he would be a hell of an instructor. He can go that way and have a really refined school. There is no doubt in my mind that as time goes on, there are going to be more and more athletes that are going to want to try their hand in MMA and they are going to want to be trained correctly. And guys like Randy Couture and Chuck Liddell, who have had such a wonderful legacy in MMA, why they wouldn't be successful in training the next wave of great stars and these guys out of college that are looking for an option. I think there are so many options for Chuck that it's not even funny. It's sad to see him go if it is indeed true, which I hope it is, but I do think that he has so many talents and so much skill that he can be extremely successful in helping build what he started. Chuck has unfinished business to attend to in the UFC, and MMA globally, that the journey is just beginning. He's just going to be packed in a different bag. Instead of packing 4-ounce gloves, he may be packing a suit. I think he will be fine.



[ Follow Percy Crawford on Twitter @MrLouis1ana ]

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