Chuck should not fight. But if he insists on it, and his management still wants to say he’s top of the line, this is what you do: call their bluff. Publicly offer them a fight with Anderson Silva at 205 as their comeback fight. On the upside:
– It’s a main event fight which soaks up a month of promotion that needs a main event.
– It’s a big payday for Anderson Silva, which may stop him from complaining about money so much.
– You know exactly who’s going to win, so you can make plans around that eventuality.
– It may help make a bigger star out of Silva.
– It’ll be quick, and therefor likely to do as little damage to the should-be-retired Liddell as possible; it’ll also likely be so definitive as to keep him retired from this point on.
– It won’t be a bad fight.
– If Anderson Silva wants to fight at 205 but won’t fight Machida, this is a way to keep him busy and make money with him without letting him get the kind of wins which make a title shot inevitable, or the lack of one a joke.
– It’ll probably be such a one-sided tragedy that it may turn fans on Silva, leaving them angry at him for humiliating Liddell.
Alternate idea: Tito Ortiz. It’s got the same big-fight-and-we-probably-know-the-winner stuff going for it, although it has the disadvantage of potentially hurting Tito if he walks into something unexpected which Silva would never do. On the other hand, hey, if Chuck wins maybe you get another big money fight out of him, which is great if you’re trying to get him killed.
Secondary alternate idea: Wanderlei Silva. I suspect negotiations for this one are already semi-active. Would probably be a good fight and might help whoever wins, but it’s frankly disgraceful on humanitarian grounds.
Tertiary alternate idea: Jon Jones. A win gets Jones’ name out there and maybe makes a minor star out of him, a loss doesn’t kill him, he doesn’t hit hard enough to badly injure Chuck (probably), and he’s low enough on the totem pole so that if Chuck loses to him it’s hard to claim he’s still a top guy who should still be fighting. If Chuck wins, you can sacrifice him to a top fighter next time out and still get two buyrates out of the thing, if you don’t care about his health and well-being.
One thing I would NOT have anything to do with which I’ve seen mooted is Forrest Griffin vs. Chuck. Forrest’s confidence is clearly shattered for the moment, he’s hittable, and if Chuck has anything left it’ll be his power. Chuck might beat him, and that’s an outcome which seriously hurts Forrest while doing nothing for UFC except getting them one more show out of Chuck before he gets immolated by any of the top 205 guys. It doesn’t even really help Chuck much, since if he wins he’ll keep fighting and get killed by someone else, and if he loses it’ll probably be either quick and humiliating, or long and agonizing which might injure him and worse might not convince him that he’s really done yet. And a win doesn’t even rehab Forrest much; a lot of people will still say he beat a shot fighter, and it won’t seriously enhance his marketability. No new star is created or money match built; it’s a booking dead end.
Bottom line is, Chuck should not be fighting. His decline isn’t so much skills-based as it is athletic- he’s slower than he ever used to be and can’t take a punch, and at 39 you don’t come back from that. But if he insists on fighting then UFC should either give him a fight which might make a new star, or else give him a fight which is likely to be a career capstone for Liddell win or lose; Tito or Wanderlei probably serve that purpose best. What really has to be avoided is a fight where a loss won’t convince Liddell that he’s done, and a win hurts his opponent badly as a drawing card while convincing Chuck that he really is still a top guy who should keep fighting.
Could there be a worse idea out there for Chuck? He’s 39, he’s slower than he’s ever been, he was a stalker and not an elusive mover even in his prime, he’d be moving up to a weight where his power would probably be much less useful, his chin appears permanently crumbled and he’d be facing the biggest punchers of his career, it would be a license for him to show up out of shape and if he did show up in shape he’d be tiny at the weight… I mean, if you’re looking to stage UFC’s first on-air fatality this is a great idea, but other than that it’s bug nuts. Seriously: when you have an old half-shot fighter with little defense who can’t take a punch, you should tell him to retire; but if you don’t, telling him to MOVE UP in weight is the worst possible advice. If he insists on fighting and can make 205, he should fight there; if he could possibly make 185 (which he almost certainly can’t) that would be even better; but his first heavyweight contract is essentially a suicide note. Frankly it’s a bad enough idea that I would worry if a commission sanctioned it.