Former UFC Light-Heavyweight Champion and MMA legend Chuck “The Iceman” Liddell was motivated, after four losses in five fights, to make his return to the Octagon against long-time rival Tito “The Huntington Beach Bad Boy” Ortiz.
The two were coaches opposite one another on the currently airing season of The Ultimate Fighter reality TV show and during taping Ortiz did and said just enough to fire up Liddell and make the fight personal. So it was with unsurprised disappointment that Liddell met the news of Ortiz’s withdrawal from the fight due to injury. “The Iceman” recently spoke with Men’s Fitness about not fighting Ortiz and about his new replacement opponent, Rich Franklin.
“I still really want to knock him out,” Liddell said of Ortiz. “After the sh** he said on the show [The Ultimate Fighter] I really wanted to [fight]. He ran his mouth and now I get to say ‘I told you so’ to Dana [White, the UFC president]. I told Dana that he wouldn’t fight me and that he was just going to use this to get on TV.”
As to whether or not a third bout between the two will ever again materialize, Liddell is indifferent.
“I don’t care,” said Liddell. “Honestly. I mean I’ve already knocked him out twice. All I want is, if he decides to come back to the UFC, that he should have to fight me to get back in.”
With his new opponent, former UFC Middleweight Champion Rich “Ace” Franklin, likely offering a step up in competition from Ortiz, Liddell is taking his training seriously in hopes to beat Franklin and get back on track to recapture the Light-Heavyweight championship.
“My training is ramping up, getting harder and harder,” said Liddell. “I had to switch to southpaw though, because he’s a southpaw.”
Liddell also offered some insight on adapting his training to a new opponent.
“Other than the fact that Franklin’s a southpaw, there’s not much of a difference,” said Liddell. “I’ve had to work on my all-round game because he’s decent at everything. Him taking me down is not really a big threat, so if it goes to the ground it’s because I decided it should, but he is a much better striker than Tito.”
Liddell and Franklin are both coming off of tough losses; Franklin against Vitor Belfort and Liddell against Mauricio “Shogun” Rua. Both of their last wins were close, hard fought decisions over MMA veteran Wanderlei Silva. This matchup is an even one, between two former champions who may have seen better days. Franklin is only five years younger than Liddell but “The Iceman” has truly showed his age in his last performances. In his quick knockout losses to Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, Rashad Evans and Mauricio Rua, Liddell looked to be loose with his technique and a step or two shy from keeping up with the younger men. This match against Franklin will prove once and for all if Liddell can shore up his weaknesses and evolve enough to compete with the current breed of MMA hyper-athletes.