For new fans of MMA, it may be hard to get why Dana White and Chuck Liddell are so tight. It's the same reason White has tight bonds with guys like Rich Franklin, Randy Couture and Matt Hughes as well. It was only five years ago when the UFC could only dream about legitimately sold out arenas and eclipsing 100,000 pay-per-view buys. Now just about every arena is sold out with at least 85 percent of the tickets actually purchased, and a poor PPV showing is 300,000. White and his fighters like Liddell had to do the grunt work from 2001-2007. That's when Liddell was part champion/part pitchman.
"He means a lot to this company and a lot to this sport. He means a lot to me personally," said White, the UFC president. "In the early days when we got no press, no coverage ... Chuck would be on the road with me for weeks on end. Traveling and representing the sport, helping us build it. He was a great business partner. He's always going to have a home with the UFC."
It's pretty much a guarantee, that home will now be as a full-time PR spokesman for the company after Liddell went out guns-a-blazin' on Saturday night in a loss against Rich Franklin at UFC 115 in Vancouver. White said he wasn't sad at all. Liddell went out fighting like he did when he was champion.
"I don’t have one sad feeling in my body," White told the Las Vegas Sun. "He wanted this and he gave it his best shot. He went out like Chuck Liddell would. He was blasting and throwing bombs and he gave the fans a last, good fight with the Iceman. [...] We all turn 40 and we all get old. Michael Jordan was the greatest basketball player in the world. It happens to everybody."
White said he wasn't sad at all. Look at where the UFC is right now. This is what White, UFC owner Lorenzo Fertitta and the fighters strived for.
"When we all got together. Me, Lorenzo ... Chuck was part of the thing. We had a dream that it was going to be like this," said White, who purchased the company back in 2001 along with the casino mogul. "Now we're living it and it happened. (Liddell) actually lived inside that window. I have not one sad feeling in my body at all. We did it. We did it. He was part of it and he'll always be a part of it."
White said it wasn't all about wins and losses for the pioneers of the sport.
"Back before I joined the UFC, I was mananging Chuck Liddell," said White. "This guy was making twenty-five hundred bucks to fight. I always used to say to guys when we first started building this company. It's about how famous you can become while you're fighting. How many people see you do great things. Then you can have a career after fighting."
Liddell closed his career making millions per fight and can pull in thousands in endorsement and appearance fees. If he takes care of his money, he's set for life. That's all an athlete can ask for as they move into second phase of their of life.