John Hackleman may train one of the baddest mixed martial artists of all-time in former Cal Poly wrestler Chuck Liddell, but he never trained for the battle that’s he’s undertaking outside the cage with UFC President Dana White.
When Liddell suffered a knockout loss to Mauricio Rua at UFC 97, his third knockout loss in five fights, White pronounced his career finished.
“He’s a huge superstar and we could still sell lots of tickets (with Liddell),” White said at a post-fight press conference. “But I don’t care about that. I care about him. I care about his health, and it’s over man. It’s over.”
Problem was, no one told Liddell or Hackleman.
When Hackleman protested that Liddell hadn’t informed anyone of his future plans, the often outspoken White unleashed his fury.
“Obviously, John Hackleman didn’t pay his house off yet,” White told Sherdog.com “John Hackleman needs some money, because anybody who claims they care about Chuck Liddell even a little bit would not be making these f–king statements.”
Hackleman may be in for a bigger battle than he ever had in his fighting career.
He’s like the dirty fighter that’ll come in and bite your ear,” Hackleman said of White. “He doesn’t have to watch what he says or does because his two business partners are multi-billionaires.”
While Hackleman said he disliked White’s tactics, he knows that White was trying to come from a good place.
“Dana White had good intentions,” he said. “But he did the wrong thing with those good intentions. I think he cares about Chuck but to say that at a press conference without talking to him — that was just rude.”
Hackleman stressed that he isn’t saying that Liddell will fight again.
“We’re not going to push him to fight or say he’s going to retire,” he said. “We’re going to let him make the decision.”
While Hackleman fights a war of words with White on one end, he’s celebrating the grand opening of his flagship gym, The Pit, on Grand Avenue in Arroyo Grande.
While the building opened a couple months ago, Hackleman and Liddell are celebrating its opening to the general public from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday.
“We’ve got about 30 of them now,” Hackleman said of his numerous gyms. “But (the Arroyo Grande location) is my main one. This is where I’m always at.”
Hackleman estimates that he works with about 20 Cal Poly students, teaching them his art of Hawaiian Kempo.
“We do our world famous pit curriculum,” Hackleman said. “We work on striking, grappling and conditioning. We have specialized standup striking classes as well as classes for people who just want to work on their grappling or conditioning.”
Hackleman defined Hawaiian Kempo as “33.3 percent striking, grappling, and conditioning” and noted that while new UFC Light Heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida is known as a karate fighter, to be a good professional a mixed martial artist must be balanced.
“As a fighter you better to be good at everything,” Hackleman said. “The flavor of the month thing might be good, but for the long run you’re going to have to know more.”
Hackleman said he hopes to train with more Cal Poly students as he plans to initiate a new program for college students.
“We’re going to call it the Cal Poly four by four or something,” Hackleman said. “Basically it takes four to five years for most people to get their degree. We want them to be able to get a degree and a black belt in that same time. This is like another family where you can train and hang out. If you’re away from home and at college, instead of hopping to the bars, getting drunk and acting stupid, you can hang out with healthy people doing healthy things.”