MONTREAL (AP) - In a mixed martial arts event with plenty worth noting, UFC 97 will likely be remembered for Chuck Liddell’s fourth loss in five fights and his apparent departure from the sport he helped build from the ground up.
The 39-year-old Liddell said it was “probably safe to say” his career was over after he was knocked out by Mauricio Rua in the first round on Saturday night.
“It’s not working for me lately,” he said simply before leaving the news conference.
It was up to UFC president Dana White to handle the requiem.
“You’re never going to see Chuck Liddell on the canvas again,” he said. “It’s never going to happen. It’s done.
“Tonight was the end of an era. One of the greatest guys in the sport fought his last fight tonight.”
White revealed he had tried to get the former light-heavyweight champion to retire after his last loss _ a devastating knockout at the hands of Rashad Evans at UFC 88. But Liddell convinced his friend and former manager that he wanted to train for one last go-round.
Liddell (21-7) showed more movement than he had in recent fights and changed up his game, taking Rua down at one point. But Rua, 12 years younger, matched Liddell’s striking and, like Liddell’s other recent foes, found the former champ’s defense and chin wanting.
He beat Liddell to the punch and floored him with a lunging left 4:28 into the first round.
Liddell won 15 of his first 17 UFC fights, but only one since beating Tito Ortiz in December 2006. White said Liddell will have a job for life in the organization, just not in the cage.
In the main event of the seven-fight card, Anderson Silva won a UFC record ninth straight fight with a drab decision over Thales Leites that drew boos from the sellout crowd of 21,451 at the Bell Centre.
The uninspired performance erased the mark for consecutive victories shared by Royce Gracie and Jon Fitch. Silva also tied a record with his fifth title defense.
“Not every fight is going to be a knockout,” Silva said through an interpreter. “Not every fight is going to be some spectacular finish.”
(This version CORRECTS spelling to Liddell in overlines.)