Mixed martial artist Chuck Liddell hasn’t fought in more than nine years, and his second bout against bitter rival Tito Ortiz was 12 years ago.
Saying the fire still burns, Liddell will meet Ortiz on Nov. 24 at the Forum in a pay-per-view bout that will be promoted by Oscar De La Hoya’s Golden Boy company because UFC President Dana White said he no longer wants to see his friend fight after Liddell was knocked out in four of his final six fights and exhibited signs of decline.
“The guys that stop evolving are done. A lot of things are different now,” said Liddell, 48.
The most significant change is Liddell’s advancing age, and despite those fretting over his neurological condition, Golden Boy President Eric Gomez said Liddell has passed “every single test” and “tests beyond that” given him by the California State Athletic Commission.
Asked if it bothers him that White won’t promote the bout out of concern for the UFC legend and former light-heavyweight champion, Liddell said, “It doesn’t affect me. Dana and I have agreed to disagree over a lot of things. It doesn’t really change our relationship at all.”
Liddell said he’s driven to prove he can still fight at a competent level, and to inspire those who may be feeling their age.
“I want to prove to people I can do whatever I put my mind to, and I want to prove to people they can do whatever they put their minds to,” he said. “It’s a chance to show everyone I can still do this, and I know I can. I’ve been in the gym. I’ve made sure. I don’t want to go out and look like a bum. You’re going to be impressed with what you see.”
Liddell said he felt ready for the fight while training earlier this year.
“It was working, everything was firing and I decided, ‘You’re going to make a run at this,’” said Liddell, known as “Iceman.”
Although he mispronounced the fighter’s name as “Lie-Dell,” De La Hoya understands the legacy of both California fighters who helped launch the UFC to mainstream significance.
“Chuck Liddell is a great puncher, with the power to knock anyone out with a single punch, and Tito Ortiz, a ground and pounder, will make this an enormous fight,” De La Hoya said. “Many people around the globe have been waiting on this trilogy. We all know the animosity between the fighters … and when you think about mixed martial arts and who was there from the start, you think about Tito Ortiz.”
Ortiz last fought in January 2017, submitting Chael Sonnen, who’s now participating in Bellator’s heavyweight tournament.
Ortiz said he’s intent to avenge his two losses to Liddell. They were formerly friends but Ortiz blames White for driving a divide between the pair.
“I get an opportunity to put you out once and for all,” Ortiz said at Friday’s news conference at MGM Grand. “I choked out Chael Sonnen in 21/2 minutes. This guy hasn’t fought in 10 years and he wants to call me out? I get to raise my hands on my terms, and shut this guy up and start a new business. I’m 43 years young, you’ll see me get my hand raised over a shell of a man, Chuck ‘The Snowflake’ Liddell.”
Liddell didn’t give Ortiz much credit for defeating Sonnen, calling it a “weird” fight.
“If he’s going to come at me striking — and if it’s up to me, we’re going to stand and bang — he’s not going to like it and it’s going to be a knockout in the first round,” Liddell said. “His best thing is to ground and pound.
“I know he’s hoping I’m a shell of a man because that’s the only way he has a chance to beat me. I’m not. I still hit just as hard. He’s going to get knocked out. … I’m excited to prove I’m not too old. I’ll be there, I’ll be in shape, and I’ll enjoy it.”