Image of Shogun Rua and Chuck Liddell, courtesy of ufc.com“One night and one more time. Thanks for the memories.”

It wasn’t the way it was supposed to end.

You could read his lips as he rose one last time from the canvass – “what happened?” There was no need for a microphone on the referee to know what was said in return. “You got hit Chuck. One last time…”

With a knowing nod Charles David Liddell congratulated his adversary and waved a final time to the crowd. He didn’t mail it in against a surprisingly game Shogun Rua. Win or lose he deserved our respect and appreciation.

The Iceman has been more than just a great fighter in the UFC. He was a founder of the sport as we know it today – alongside names like the Fertittas, Dana White, Randy Couture and Royce Gracie.

He epitomized what we wanted to see in a UFC champion: the big right hand, the rock star image, the wild after party stories… but always returning to train relentlessly under the bark and bite of John Hackleman at The Pit.

He squared off against Renato Sobral, Vitor Belfort, Tito Ortiz, Rampage Jackson, Keith Jardine, Rashad Evans, Wanderlai Silva and of course three times against Randy Couture. Chuck never shied away from any challenger.

And at some point it all catches up with you. The knockouts you delivered and received, the late night after parties, the interviews, the travel, the appearances, the training. At thirty-nine years of age, it comes time to hang up the gloves.

Would we fill an arena one more time to see Chuck and Randy IV? You bet we would. No recession would keep us from reaching in to our wallets to see it again. Sadly, that matchup is just a pipe dream that is best left for hypothetical discussion instead of unfolding in front of our pay per view eyes.

Tiger Woods, Wayne Gretzky, Michael Jordan and Chuck Liddell. Athletes that were more than just great competitors – they took their respective sports to another level.

Thanks for the memories, Iceman. Thanks for the memories.