Former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion and MMA icon Chuck “The Iceman” Liddell is set to return from a year-long hiatus from MMA in order to take on former UFC Middleweight Champion Rich “Ace” Franklin tomorrow night and prove to the world that he still has some gas left in his tank.
Liddell recently spoke with MMAFighting.com to give his thoughts on Franklin as an opponent and to offer some insight into his revamped training camp and renewed motivation.
Liddell was originally scheduled to take on long-time rival “The Huntington Beach Bad Boy” Tito Ortiz for the third time upon the conclusion of their coaching stint on the current season of The Ultimate Fighter but Ortiz was forced to pull out of the bout with a neck injury. In stepped Rich Franklin at the UFC’s behest to fill Ortiz’s shoes against “The Iceman” and, for a bit, it threw Liddell off.
“For a couple days it throws you, because it’s such a big change going from fighting someone I really want to hurt to someone I have a lot of respect for,” said Liddell. “I better be in shape and ready to go. You’re not going to get away with stuff with this guy. It’s not going to be good to show up out of shape. He’s always in shape. It motivates me in a different way, but just as much if not more so just because of his abilities.”
Liddell has had a rough run as of late, going 4-1 in his last five fights and being knocked out in three of those losses; all factors that led to UFC President Dana White calling for Liddell’s retirement. Liddell’s latest performances coupled with the long layoff he has endured have many counting the Californian out against Franklin before they even step in the Octagon. However, recent pictures posted on Liddell’s girlfriend’s Twitter account show “The Iceman” looking in stellar shape and Liddell credits that to his time off.
“Yeah, I feel great,” Liddell said when asked of his conditioning. “One of things is that I realize I didn’t spend as much of my training camp just trying to get in shape; I spent it trying to get better at things and working on new things and getting my game to flow better. Working on my timing and concentrating on the things I need to be concentrating on instead of just getting in shape and getting through the workout.
“I think the time away was very good for me. Both mentally and physically I’m back into it. I spent a lot of the time off working out and lifting. I didn’t hit mitts until December. We did some jiu-jitsu but I wasn’t striking at all until December, so when I came back, it felt good. It made me hungry. I wanted to get back in there and learn more.”
In addition to getting in possibly the best shape of his life, Liddell has been taking time to focus on shoring up his defense and adding some new tricks and techniques to his repertoire with the help of famed boxing trainer Howard Davis.
“John brought [Davis] in for a reason,” “The Iceman” said. “We’re known for power, heavy punches. That’s what we do. Howard is a stick-and-move kind of guy. Defense, don’t get hit, get in, tie him up, get out. So I’m trying to add some of that to my game. Work on my defense, move a little more. It’s a good mix between what we do and what he does.”
Despite the respect that Liddell has for Franklin, he maintains that he is going to take the fight to him, stating that he is “planning on hitting him enough to [make him] want to take me down” and, in true Liddell fashion, that he is also “planning to knock him out,” adding finally: “I’m in shape and ready to go. If Rich wants to push, I’ll push him as far as he wants to go.”
“The Iceman” will hit the comeback trail tomorrow night when he meets Franklin at General Motors Place in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada for UFC 115. They are joined on the main card by Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic (who will be taking on fellow striker Pat Barry), Brazilian knockout-artist Paulo Thiago (also taking on a striker in Dutch kickboxer Martin Kampmann), heavyweight Ben Rothwell (taking on wild Dutchman Gilbert Yvel) and “The Natural Born Killer” Carlos Condit (who will square off against Rory MacDonald in a welterweight tilt). The card will air live on pay-per-view and over the internet at Yahoo! Sports. As always, FightLine.com will provide live coverage of the event.