UFC retired legend Chuck Liddell is calling out fighters, telling them that if they want to be worth more, they need to fight inside the cage and not play it safe.
Liddell, who, in his final three UFC fights, was flattened worse than the photographer who got in Kanye West‘s face at LAX the other day, certainly never played it safe in his MMA career. He put Tito Ortiz on his back probably more times than Jenna Jameson did. He KO’d Alistair Overeem prior to Overeem’s elevated testosterone days, when the Dutch fighter’s physique looked more like Cris Cyborg’s than The Rock‘s.
Liddell said during an interview on Inside MMA on AXS TV that the biggest problem in MMA is fighters playing it safe and that fighters need to go for the knockout or submission.
He is right. Not every fighter is going to pull an Anderson Silva, drop his hands and egg on his opponent to knock him out. Sometimes fighters have to take legitimate risks in order to earn a KO.
Look at a guy like Dan Henderson. With his big right hand, he’s earned some of the sports most impressive KOs, knocking out Michael Bisping, Renato Sobral, Rafael “Feijao” Cavalcante and even the great Fedor Emelianenko. He was the hottest thing in MMA for a brief time during his epic knockout run from 2009 to 2011. Then what happened? He suddenly started fighting not to lose, instead of to win.
Knowing a title shot was on the line against Lyoto Machida, Henderson acted liked he was Fred Sanford pretending to fight his buddy Grady Wilson. He was there to move his hands, shuffle his feet and look scary, but he never threw it down with Machida like it was war. He knew Machida was dangerously talented with the counter strikes. It was a similar deal when Henderson stepped inside the cage with Rashad Evans.
Now, he would need Chael Sonnen‘s big mouth to talk him into a title shot because the Houston Texans will probably win a Super Bowl before Henderson gets a light heavyweight title shot.
A lot of fighters play it safe because they are living in fear of getting cut. They don’t want to lose because, in their minds, a boring fight that you win on a decision is better than a knockout or submission loss. That approach may work in the short run, but in the end, fighting is all about winning over the fans. That’s why fans will cheer for a little dynamo like Wanderlei Silva. He fights like he’s walking into the Gates of Hell and isn’t coming back unless he brings back Satan’s head. He’s fearless.
If MMA’s epic rise toward mainstream sport ever dissipates, it won’t be because of a ban in New York, low fighter pay or even the UFC’s perceived “monopoly” on the sport. It will be because fans lose interest and no longer want to watch boring stand-up fights or two skilled wrestlers on the ground.
In the end, it’s called fighting. Just ask Silva.