LAS VEGAS -- Chuck (The Iceman) Liddell helped build the UFC. Now he's going to help run it.
The UFC Hall of Famer and former light-heavyweight champion announced his retirement Wednesday to become the mixed martial arts organization's executive vice-president for business development.
The 41-year-old Liddell, better known for beatdowns than business, acknowledged it was a title he never expected to precede his name.
"Definitely not, but if I'm going to be a vice-president of something, have a real job, this is the one I want," Liddell said.
Liddell (21-8) talked of retirement in April 2009 after a string of poor performances culminated in a TKO loss to Mauricio (Shogun) Rua at UFC 97 in Montreal. UFC president Dana White, who once managed Liddell, was more definitive before and after the Rua fight, saying it was time for his friend to quit before he got hurt.
But Liddell missed the sport and -- after rededicating himself to training -- returned to the cage in June at UFC 115 in Vancouver, where he was knocked out by Rich Franklin.
That loss was his third straight and fifth in his last six outings.
"Listen I can't even imagine what it's like to walk out into an arena with 20,000 people screaming your name and all the things that go along with it -- and the money and the fun and the fame," said White.
"The reality is he was the king, man. And it's tough to walk away from that."
White made a point of stressing the job was no PR stunt, pointing to Liddell's accounting degree from Cal-Poly State.
Liddell, said White, is joining the UFC's inner circle of top executives.
Liddell, who made his pro debut at UFC 17 in May 1998, was emotional in a short visit to the podium at the pre-fight news conference for UFC 125. The event was in the lobby of the MGM Grand, where he and Tito (The Huntington Beach Bad Boy) Ortiz helped set the UFC gate record of more than US$5 million when they fought at UFC 66 in December 2006.
Liddell said afterwards he was happy at the new direction, saying he had taken time in making the decision and then asked the UFC to delay making the announcement so he had time to come to grips with it.
"It's hard," he said. "It's all I've done for ever. Shoot, between kickboxing and MMA, I've been fighting for almost 20 years."
Liddell exits as an icon in the sport -- the man with the mohawk and a tattoo on the side of his head. Despite recent poor results, Liddell remained a massive draw for the UFC.
And he was compensated accordingly, with recent purses listed at US$500,000 which did not include a cut of the lucrative pay-per-view revenue.
-- The Canadian Press