Former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Chuck “The Iceman” Liddell was poised and ready to face long-time rival Tito Ortiz for the third time in what would be his first fight on the comeback trail. Liddell, who owns two knockouts over Ortiz already, was only looking at their bout as a “tuneup” fight until their rivalry was rekindled during their time as opposing coaches on the most recent season of The Ultimate Fighter. Almost as soon as it was announced that Liddell and Ortiz would be squaring off again, rumors began spreading that Ortiz would not be fighting Liddell and that “The Iceman” would instead be taking on former UFC Middleweight Champion Rich Franklin. The rumors eventually proved true; Ortiz was forced out of their bout with a neck injury and now Liddell will be facing Franklin at UFC 115. Although he is frustrated at not having the chance to damage Ortiz, Liddell finds motivation to face Franklin in the fact that he believes Franklin to be the more dangerous and challenging competitor.
“I respect Rich and I think he’s a bigger challenger for sure, so that motivates you more to get into the gym and I’ve gotta be prepared,” Liddell told Sherdog.com. “I’ve got to show up ready to go or I’ll pay for it.”
Liddell has been away from the sport since April 2009 when he suffered a first round knockout to current light heavyweight champion Mauricio “Shogun” Rua. Many assumed, after losing 4 of his last five and with three of those losses coming by knockout, that Liddell would be retiring from the sport.
Liddell took his time to reach a decision concerning his fighting career and in the meantime got into better shape than fans have seen him in some time, if they have ever seen him in this kind of shape. Now that he is committed to making a comeback, the big question facing Liddell is whether his extended layoff will affect his performance; a question that Liddell will answer after his contest with Franklin is through.
“My timing’s on. I’m in great shape. I’m ready to go,” said Liddell. “I’ll let you know after the fight if I thought I had ring rust. I don’t see it being a problem. I think that’s psychological for some guys.”
Although he is focused on and committed to re-capturing the championship belt that was once his, Liddell is taking his comeback one fight at a time and will not be making any long-term decisions regarding such until after UFC 115.
“I’ll cross that bridge when I get there,” said “The Iceman”. “At the end of the fight, I’ll decide what I want to do next. I’m planning on making another run at the title — that’s what I want to do, so we’ll see what happens.”