Emotional Liddell leaves Octagon for UFC desk job

While it’s hard to imagine him in a suit and tie sitting behind a desk, Chuck Liddell has accepted the position of Ultimate Fighting Championship executive vice president of business development.

In taking the job, the 41-year-old announced he was officially retiring from fighting during a brief ceremony before Wednesday’s UFC 125 news conference in the lobby of the MGM Grand.

An emotional Liddell called an end to a 12-year career that included a lengthy stint as light heavyweight champion.

“Most of all, I want to thank my fans and my family. I love the sport, and I’m excited to go into a new stage in my life and keep promoting the best sport in the world, the sport I love,” the UFC Hall of Famer said as he choked back tears.

Liddell’s professional debut came at UFC 17 in 1998, when he gained a decision over Noe Hernandez.

He was knocked out by Randy Couture in his first title bout in 2003, but he knocked out Couture two years later to claim the belt he would successfully defend four consecutive times before losing it to Quinton “Rampage” Jackson in 2007.

The loss to Jackson started a stretch of five losses in six fights to close his career. The win was an epic victory over Wanderlei Silva that garnered accolades as the fight of the year in 2007.

Liddell’s final fight was a first-round knockout loss to Rich Franklin in June.

Liddell finished his career with a 21-8 record, including 13 knockout victories.

UFC president Dana White said Liddell’s new job is more than just ceremonial, pointing out the fighter known for his Mohawk and tatoos has an accounting degree from Cal Poly, where he graduated with honors.

White also said he hopes Liddell eventually will relocate from San Luis Obispo, Calif., to be closer to the company’s headquarters in Las Vegas.

“This is a big deal to us as a company,” UFC CEO Lorenzo Fertitta said. “Chuck Liddell has contributed so much to the UFC over the years. He’s literally seen this sport evolve from a very small niche sport to what it has become today. We continue to grow here in the North America, but we’ve got so many more things to do around the world, so we welcome Chuck Liddell to the UFC executive team.”

Near the end of the news conference, Liddell obliged a fan’s request for a hug, and White joked it was his first official duty in his new job.

Contact reporter Adam Hill at ahill@reviewjournal or 702-224-5509.

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