Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Speculation Station: Is MMA on Shaq's Retirement Agenda?

Last week one of professional basketball's most talented centers ever, Shaquille O'Neal, announced his retirement from the NBA after nineteen seasons of play. For nearly two decades, O'Neal blessed NBA courts with his massive size, brute strength, dominant skills in the paint, and that trademark cheesy smile.

Shaquille O'Neal, most affectionately known as "Shaq," leaves a distinctive imprint in professional basketball and the sports industry in general. He was a three-time NBA Finals MVP, an eight-time All-NBA First Team member, and is the owner of four NBA Championship rings, among a long list of accomplishments and accolades. Shaq was an outstanding basketball player, but more importantly he was a positive role model -- known for being active in the community, making charitable contributions, and participating in activities for children. Over the course of his career Shaq also made side pursuits in acting, hip hop music, and law enforcement.

Shaquille O'Neal will truly be missed on the basketball court. As the old saying goes, 'all good things must come to an end,' but if we all know Shaq, retirement isn't the end of the road.

So far, Shaq's post-NBA agenda includes finishing a PhD, and possible ventures in politics and law enforcement (Shaq served as a reserve police officer in Los Ageles and Miami).

But I may have skipped one of Shaq's other interests -- mixed martial arts. Yes, Shaq is a known fan of MMA and combat sports. He has attended UFC events, his character is coded in the UFC Undisputed 2010 video game, and he has even taken up training in mixed martial arts.

Wiki best paraphrases Shaquille O'Neal's connections to MMA:

O'Neal began training in mixed martial arts (MMA) in 2000. At Jonathan Burke's Gracie Gym, he trained in boxing, jiu-jitsu, Muay Thai and wrestling. At the gym, he used the nickname Diesel.

O'Neal challenged kickboxer and mixed martial artist Choi Hong-man to a mixed martial arts rules bout in a YouTube video posted on June 17, 2009. Hong-man replied to an email asking him if he would like to fight O'Neal saying "Yes, if there is a chance." Hong-man also responded to a question asking if O'Neal had a chance of winning with a simple "No." On August 28, 2010 at UFC 118 in Boston, O'Neal reiterated his desire to fight Choi in an interview.


Shaq expressed interest in fighting Chuck Lidell. Dana White had this to say to the Dan Patrick Show (2010):
"Shaq's been terrorizing me for years [to fight in the UFC]. He's been training for years," White said. When Patrick asked if White would face him, Dana quickly said, "Hell no! I'm not facing him."


You might also remember this scene from the UFC 118 Expo in Boston last year. Shaq 'acted' like he wanted to fight Tito Ortiz:


But Shaq's MMA archnemesis had to have been Hong-man Choi. Shaq wanted Choi to "Pick on Somebody Your Own Size," which also would've been the name of the Shaq vs. Choi show, if it were to happen.

Back to the question at hand, is MMA on Shaq's retirement agenda?

I'm sure Shaq will continue MMA training to some extent, but as far as an actual cage appearance goes, it's only a matter of time, circumstance, and a change of heart in Dana White's anti-freak show attitude.

Shaquille O'Neal is set for life. In fact his great-grand kids' great-grand kids are set. So, if he wanted to sit back and collect his checks with mile-long zeros while eating bonbons everyday, he could do so -- no problem. However, Shaq stays busy, but will he stay busy enough to want to pursue MMA now that his court life is in the rear view?

The truth is MMA needs Shaq more than Shaq needs MMA. Yeah, Dana White hates freak shows, but the crossover appeal that a Shaq Octagon appearance can generate is beyond measure. Yes, mixed martial arts is making great strides in the mainstream market, but what could a 'lil Shaq-appeal hurt?

I can see it now, Shaq making his walk-out entrance to "Can We Rock."

Anyway, I leave you with some Shaq MMA vidz:





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