Right off the bat, I want to go on record saying that I suspect Oscar De La Hoya is a cocaine addict, which might explain why tonight’s old-timers’ card in Inglewood, California featuring a grudge match main event between eight-years-retired Chuck “The Iceman” Liddell and 43-year-old Tito Ortiz was even happening in the first place. Besides being an obvious cash grab by a boxing promoter obviously tired of playing second fiddle to MMA cards as the sport fades in relevancy and recognition, there’s no other explanation to hold a PPV event for two fighters this far out of their prime years, especially when one has obvious CTE issues and is 48. This was like watching The Wrestler for just under five minutes. It’s something the California State Athletic Commission shouldn’t have even sanctioned.
To see one of the first breakthrough, household name stars of the UFC of yesteryear trotted out with abs toned by insulin shots and HGH, his trademark mohawk thinning in the front and trunks I’m sure were retrieved from a long-forgotten storage unit in the Inland Empire is depressing. Chuck Liddell helped turn MMA into the premiere combat sport internationally, and to watch him hardly recognize where he was during the weigh-ins only to briefly light up again once he heard his name called and got to make what is hopefully his last walk up to a ring is so unfathomably cruel. Maybe he needed the payday, pocketing more than $200,000 to fight Tito Ortiz, his arch-rival whom he beat twice in their heyday.
It was a bloodthirsty time for America, when Ortiz and Liddell’s seething hatred for each other helped drive PPV numbers towards the newly-legitimized UFC. Nu-metal and an aggressive, “kill ’em all” kind of patriotism helped color that whole era of fight sports and masculinity in the US and I think collectively we can agree that it’s a culture that’s aged poorly. Seeing that decay, some fifteen years later, in a first-round knockout that Liddell hardly looked present for is something that might stick with purist elements of the sport’s fanbase, people that have harped for years that this is a legitimate test of athletic skills and not a bloodsport. Continue reading →