John Hackleman defended his stance that longtime student Chuck Liddell should have the right to call it quits on his own terms during an interview on the Sherdog Radio Network’s “Beatdown” show on Friday.
Liddell, a former UFC light heavyweight champion and arguably the sport’s most recognized fighter, lost via technical knockout in the first round to Mauricio “Shogun” Rua at UFC 97. It was Liddell’s fourth loss in five bouts, and prompted UFC President Dana White to call for the vaunted fighter’s retirement.
Hackleman and White came to verbal blows in an article penned by Sherdog.com’s Mike Harris. Hackleman, who has trained Liddell to great heights over 17 years, took offense to White’s unbending order for Liddell to hang up the gloves. Hackleman believes that decision should be Liddell’s alone.
“I never encouraged Chuck to fight. I said, ‘Don’t listen to Dana White ranting about you retiring and not being able to fight anywhere else in the world,’” Hackleman told “Beatdown” on Friday. “Sounds a little controlling to me. I said, ‘Chuck, you decide if you want to fight. If it’s in your heart to fight, then that’s your call.’”
The always off-the-cuff Hackleman also took umbrage with White’s accusations that the trainer wishes Liddell to stay in the game so Hackleman can collect another paycheck.
“First of all, I’m fine. I have plenty of money,” said Hackleman. “I’m not rich, but I pay my rent. My school more than pays my rent. I’ve always paid my rent. I don’t need money to pay my rent and I didn’t ever once encourage Chuck to fight. I said Dana White isn’t going to tell Chuck Liddell when he’s going to retire. Chuck Liddell will tell Chuck Liddell when he’s going to retire. So how he got, in his enormous brain, how he got I’m encouraging Chuck to fight I don’t know. I don’t need Chuck Liddell to fight to pay my mortgage.”
Though Hackleman acknowledged White’s concern for Liddell as genuine, he described the outspoken promoters retirement talk “a control issue.”
“I think he meant well in the beginning, but then he went on a tangent,” said Hackleman, “and to go on a tangent on me, talking about me wanting Chuck to fight and put himself in harm’s way so I could pay my mortgage –- that’s a downright insult. That’s hitting below the belt.”
The popular coach from central California also pulled no punches in his personal assessment of White.
“I think there might be honestly, I’m not a psychiatrist, but there might be some serious anger issues,” he said. “I mean you’ve heard him go on rants before with his f this, f that, f this, f that, b---- this, b---- that. Maybe there are some anger issues and maybe some Paxil might be in line.”
Cage rage isn’t anything new from White if you ask Hackleman.
“He gets off -- you say one thing he doesn’t agree with and he’s a big shot and he doesn’t think anyone will talk back and he’ll go off,” said Hackleman. “He just has a mouth that, like he’s supposed to be the face of MMA today, one of the biggest organizations in sport. And to talk that way -- it’s gutter mouth. If my mom were around right now she’d wash his mouth out with soap.”