He tried to lie still while we squirmed and cringed as the needle was inserted into the gaping hole in his lip. All the Novacaine in the world couldn’t numb the pain that was felt in the little secluded area of Vancouver General Hospital on this Saturday night.
The patient on the table—Chuck “The Iceman” Liddell—continued to astonish. He was actually apologizing to his loved ones for feeling as if he let us down, apologizing to anyone who would listen.
In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. Win or lose,the man who put an entire sport on his back and carried it from Taboo Alley, through Fad Boulevard, right on to Main Street couldn’t have made his fans and friends any more proud. Heck, he helped start a whole new culture that so many of us love and adore today.
Prior to getting caught with one shot by Rich “Ace” Franklin, Liddell’s dedication and life change of the last year couldn’t be more clear. His hard work screamed with results, and for that, he’s a better man this day.
But letting his fans down? No way. No chance! However, there’s a lot more to Chuck than people know. He’s as real as you get and rarely tries to hide his emotions. He’s true in everything he does. So it’s rarely hard to know what he’s fumbling with when it comes to his emotions.
Letting you all down wasn’t the only major concern he mentioned, as two doctors worked on his lip and eye simultaneously. His other concern? I’ve heard it in the NFL more times than I wish I could remember.What am I gonna do now?
Unfortunately, this isn’t just a concern for other pro athletes and a guy like Chuck. It better scream for attention among fighters of all levels who fully commit to this sport as their job.
Luckily for Liddell, he’s made a great living off of fighting and will hopefully be employed by the UFC in some capacity as an ambassador of the sport.
But I’m writing about this to act as a lesson to everyone else out there who hasn’t had the luxury of being a pioneer of an entire sport and culture.
Memo to all fighters: Do yourselves a favor and put a plan in place immediately for life after fighting. Immediately!
If Liddell can ask the question, every single fighter in this sport today better sit down, look in the mirror, and ask the same exact question —if their job was suddenly lost today.
The quick ascent to fame for many guys helps with their social lives and feels great for their egos, but I want guys to truly sit and think how it will help them later in life.
Too many fighters are living fight check to fight check, hoping to cash in on fame and fortune like The Iceman.
Fellas, you have got to go about life as if you will NEVER EVER reach such a status. If you prepare correctly and reach the top, that’s great. Go to church or temple or whatever and thank GOD in every way you can for being one of the rare few.
I’m writing this column because once again Liddell is acting as a pioneer to all the other fighters who have followed his path. He asked the question that all the others should now be asking. What will they do next?
Retiring from fighting in your 30s gives you waaaaaay too much time to have to catch up on. Don’t think that your status will follow you once you are finished. It simply won’t, unless your last name is Couture, Liddell, or a very, very, very select few other names.
Money-wise, put your fight winnings away! Don’t go and spend it as you get it! Don’t go and feel you need to impress your friends and the girls with a hot new car. They are already impressed that you step into the Octagon, no need to spend extra on additional validation.
I’m not being a sourpuss here, people. I’ve simply seen it happen to too many guys in the NFL, and I’ve already heard of too many fighters who live beyond their means. It kills me to see it. Kills me to see guys who can’t deal with life after football. Kills me to hear a guy who never saw the end coming.
If it can come to an end for the most legendary champion in the history of the sport, it will happen to every other guy who chooses the same field.
Take this moment to learn from the best once again. Prepare guys. Prepare financially, but just as important, prepare emotionally, because one day the lights and cameras will be no more. The sport uses you. Use it back and let it set you up for a great life after fighting.
The doctors finished their sewing job and the always classy Liddell made sure he stopped off to check on Franklin and his broken arm before we departed the hospital. His face was beat up and his feelings were hurt, but Chuck Liddell will be fine in his life after fighting.
Ask yourself though, will you?