LAS VEGAS -- Those wondering how far UFC hall of famer Chuck Liddell’s stock has fallen need to look no further than the words of one Brandon Vera.
The 40-year-old Liddell, projected to face arch nemesis Tito Ortiz for a third time at UFC 115 in June, has lost four of his last five fights. When asked on Friday whether or not “The Iceman” now represents a step down in competition, Vera answered bluntly during a Q&A session at the Mandalay Bay Events Center.
“Yes,” said Vera, who was outspoken about his desire to pursue Liddell when he burst on the UFC scene in 2005. “I’m not lying. I would much rather fight somebody I’m supposed to lose to.”
Vera will collide with the fast-rising Jon Jones in the UFC on Versus 1 main event on March 21 at the Odeum Colorado in Broomfield, Colo. The 32-year-old Norfolk, Va., native has won two of his past three bouts and holds key victories against “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 8 semi-finalist Krzysztof Soszynski, former UFC heavyweight champion Frank Mir and Strikeforce veteran Mike Whitehead. Vera last competed in November, when he dropped a controversial decision to UFC hall of famer Randy Couture in the UFC 105 headliner.
A Brazilian jiu-jitsu brown belt and potent muay Thai practitioner who trains under Lloyd Irvin, Vera wants to move behind champion Lyoto Machida and top contender Mauricio “Shogun” Rua in the light heavyweight pecking order. Former titleholders Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and Rashad Evans figure to provide formidable roadblocks.
“I’m asking for the number three spot,” Vera said. “I don’t give a damn who’s at number three. I can’t ask for number one, and I can’t ask for number two. That’s Machida and ‘Shogun.’ You’ve got to climb the ladder.”
His road first leads through Jones, who was disqualified for the illegal elbow strikes he landed against Matt Hamill at “The Ultimate Fighter 10” Finale two months ago in Las Vegas. Most see “Bones,” who will not turn 23 until July, as a future champion.
“We’re going to see how hard his bones are,” Vera said. “I don’t want to look past Jones; I can’t. He’s a real dangerous fighter.”