Chuck Liddell’s Impact on MMA Extends to Dancing

Written by Tom Ngo
September 4th, 2009

Most of us have seen Chuck Liddell’s Dancing with the Stars promo picture by now, and what a treat that was. As the final chuckles (no pun intended) filter out, Liddell’s performance on the show could very well blast open the mainstream doors for the sport of mixed martial arts, and don’t think the UFC doesn’t know it.

“They asked a couple different times, but it would be too much time to take off from training for fights,” Liddell stated. “Now I don’t have any fights coming up and I’m not training, so it’s something to do.”

It wouldn’t be the first time the organization has used the likable 39-year-old to be the face of their company. Just a few years back, Liddell’s mug and Mohawk were synonymous with the UFC.

He was blasting opponents inside the Octagon, while conducting every major ESPN interview, gracing the cover of their magazine and appearing as a guest star on the pop culture phenomenon, Entourage.

The formula worked for them then, and it appears that they are trying a similar recipe this time around. Although Liddell’s days as MMA’s baddest man passed many moons ago, the UFC is still banking on the infectious charisma of their Hall of Famer.

In case you didn’t know, the UFC has been aggressively trying to ink a major network deal and have been working much closer with ESPN within the past several months. You can now catch the world’s most watched sports network updating UFC action on their live ticker for every major event.

That is on top of ESPN.com’s MMA LIVE, a weekly mixed martial arts show that is co-hosted by UFC lightweight Kenny Florian.

In addition, it was announced last month that ESPN will broadcast all UFC events live in the U.K. and Ireland, taking over for the financially plagued Setanta Sports.

It’s been well documented that company president Dana White wants his long-time buddy to retire. He said that Liddell has accomplished enough inside the Octagon and that it was time for him to become an ambassador for the company and the sport in order to keep this thing growing.

If that is the case, is “DWTS” the proper platform for capturing a major network deal?

Actually, it is.

“DWTS” is one of ABC’s most popular television shows. ESPN is owned by ABC. Do you get where we are going with this?

Just because the UFC isn’t paying Liddell to fight inside of a cage right now doesn’t mean that they didn’t break him off a little cheddar for putting on a Bedazzled button-up and some spandex pants.

We have no inside information on this, but think about it.

This isn’t just a stupid dance show for a bunch of has-been celebs. Well maybe it is for some people, but for Liddell and the UFC, taking the “DWTS” crown could accelerate MMA to mainstream acceptance.

“We’ve never had more interest than right now,” White stated about inking a network deal. “Obviously, I think all the hard work we’ve done over nine years and UFC 100 had a big part in it, too. I’m pretty confident we’re gonna have a deal very, very soon. I like what I’m hearing now more than I ever did before.

“Once we get the right offer, we will be on network television. We haven’t had the right offer, yet.”

The “right” offer might come a lot sooner if Liddell is able to become America’s fan favorite. He could easily play the role of the brute athlete that enamors fans worldwide, ala Warren Sapp a couple of dancing seasons ago.

“The Iceman” is either going to burn up the dance floor, or melt away as the show’s laughingstock. Here’s hoping that it’s the former because the UFC is banking on him more than fans realize and that’s why Liddell’s got his game face on.

“I want to win,” Liddell stated in no uncertain terms. “I don’t like losing in anything, so I’ll work as hard as they’ll let me.”

If Chucky wins, then MMA wins. This might be the only time that I say it, but make sure to vote for your favorite Dancing with the Stars contestant!

The show debuts on September 21st.

Don’t forget to follow @5thRound on Twitter, Facebook and Google+!