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Then vs Now: Liddell & McGregor – The UFC Poster Boys

Despite their different weight classes and different eras of stardom, Chuck ‘The Iceman’ Liddell and Conor ‘The Notorious’ McGregor have one thing in common, they are both poster boys for the Ultimate Fighting Championship.

Chuck Liddell was the first UFC superstar, and now our very own Conor McGregor is becoming the most talked-about fighter in the business. So let’s compare the two huge characters.


Chuck ‘The Iceman’ Liddell

From day one, Chuck Liddell had the perfect image to match his career choice. His silent and intimidating nature, combined with a Mohawk and tattoo on the side of his head made the Californian light-heavyweight the personification of everything the UFC was trying, and succeeding to be.

The UFC commanded respect while going through its first wonder years in the early to mid-2000s. Chuck Liddell was no different. Outside of the ring he was the cool, calculated, the almost modest face of the light-heavyweight division.

Inside the ring however, he became a king of the Octagon, dominating the cage by dishing out the most formidable strikes in the history of the business.  It was this contrast between the ice-cool media persona and the larger than life animal within the eight barriers of the ring which made the Santa Barbara native such a hit with the crowds.

His intense rivalries with some of the best in the business also kept the fans engrossed. Liddell had an extremely heated and entertaining rivalry with Tito Ortiz, and a savage trilogy of fights with Randy Couture, each giving both the fans and the promoters unparalleled excitement, event after event.

It was these rivalries which gave the UFC huge attention and momentum in vying for mainstream popularity, and Liddell was at the heart of it.

Chuck Liddell was a character who brought new fans to the business and kept the loyal fans coming back for each event. He was a fighter with massive longevity and admirable resilience.

From 1999 to 2002, Liddell held a seven-fight win streak, and from 2004 to 2006, achieved a still active record of knocking out seven opponents in a row. He was a world-class fighter, and an equally as valuable marketing tool. The success of the Ultimate Fighter series, on which he was a coach, perfectly combined his pedigree as a fighter and his infectious entertainment persona.

There are few fighters who can claim to be a better fighter than Chuck Liddell and even fewer who can claim to have done more for the UFC than he has. Those who aren’t fans of the business will still know his face, and those who are fans of it will never forget him; an icon by any means.

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Conor ‘The Notorious’ McGregor

He has said it himself; there has never been a fighter like Conor McGregor. He is the vocal, the boisterous, the aptly named ‘notorious’ one in the UFC. He not only talks the talk, but time and time again, has walked the walked within the Octagon. His rise to stardom has been spectacular.

Conor McGregor has become the poster boy for the industry, making himself a household name all around the world. The UFC is going through yet another boom in popularity thanks to the huge variety of stars and rivalries within the business.

The likes of Jon Jones, Anderson Silva, Uriah Hall and Rashad Evans have contributed to the continued growth of the business from its initial glory days due to their staggering performances. McGregor however, brings more to the table. He is unique, in every sense of the word.

Unlike Liddell, McGregor’s rise to fame has not been enhanced by bitter rivalries. In fact, the Tallaght native has arguably one unique rivalry, in the sense that he has yet to face his arch-rival José Aldo in the Octagon.

Thankfully, this bout has been confirmed after McGregor’s victory over Dennis Siver last weekend. This most recent win was yet another example of McGregor’s enthralling style, and how he continues to follow through on his pre-fight promises. It is his title shot against the current featherweight champion, José Aldo, which will truly define McGregor’s worth.

Conor McGregor has brought UFC further in to the mainstream, becoming a superstar both in and out of the ring. His current win-streak, which is the second longest active win-streak in the UFC, has been matched by his media performances surrounding each fight, each more entertaining than the last.

Much like Chuck Liddell, he has moulded himself, with the help of the UFC, into the reason the people keep tuning in.

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The Verdict

Combining both fighting ability and worldwide appeal, it has to be said that Chuck ‘The Iceman’ Liddell edges it. His legacy is virtually unrivalled, with only the best in the history of the business (Royce Gracie, George St. Pierre etc) having similar all-round appeal.

There is no denying though, that Conor McGregor is one of only two or three in the UFC today who has the potential to possibly match these legacies. When he faces José Aldo in Las Vegas this May (no formal date as of yet) we will see the true worth of our home-grown maniac, and only then can we place him in the seat he has saved for himself in the annals of UFC history.

Eoin Lyons, Pundit Arena

About Eoin Lyons

A recent graduate of Law, Media and Cultural Studies from University of Limerick, Eoin Lyons has been writing for many years. He was Comment Section editor for An Focal in UL and was also involved in the creation of Between The Lines magazine in Waterford. Eoin is a Man United fan, and yes, one of those annoying ones. He is also a massive tennis fan, and one of the best table tennis players in the universe.