Liddell: Ortiz is a ‘Tune-Up’ Fight

By Loretta Hunt Mar 29, 2010
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Chuck Liddell pushed a proposed bout with longtime rival Tito Ortiz during a Spike TV conference call for “The Ultimate Fighter 11,” and said that “to his knowledge,” a third matchup with Ortiz is still happening.

Liddell and Ortiz, who serve as rival coaches this season on the reality show that begins Wednesday at 10:00 p.m. ET/PT, are anticipated to meet a third time following the show’s conclusion, likely at the yet-to-be-announced UFC 115 on June 12.

However, reported on March 13 that Liddell and former middleweight champion Rich Franklin have verbally agreed to face one another instead, according to multiple sources close to the bout. UFC President Dana White later denied the reports, but re-affirmed through its sources that the bout is still on track. Fighters appearing on the reality show all sign rigorous non-disclosure agreements to keep the series’ plotline a secret before airing.

“I’ve heard the rumors, of course, but from what I understand, (Ortiz’) signed to fight and he’s still coming at me,” Liddell said on Monday. “He’s still going to actually show up and get his beating again. I think I earned it having to put up with him for seven weeks.”

Liddell, who called the proposed third bout with Ortiz “a tune-up fight” numerous times during the call, was asked later about the Franklin reports as well.

“I hope that’s not true,” said Liddell, who earned technical-knockout stoppages against Ortiz in 2004 and 2006. “I want him bad, so this would really upset me if this doesn’t happen.”

Ortiz and Liddell’s back-and-forth relationship has been one of the sport’s major though-lines in the past 10 years. Both were once managed by UFC President Dana White and trained together for a time. In recent years, each fighter has soured on one another, though.

“I don’t like the guy,” said Liddell. “If you listen to him, he sweet-talked me out of a fight and I betrayed him. If you want to listen to him, there are a lot of things. He’s not the brightest guy out there.”

At one point during the call, Liddell called Ortiz a “scumbag” for fabricating stories about Liddell’s personal life, which Liddell said included an alleged intervention between White and Liddell to address the fighter’s alleged alcoholism issues.

Liddell, a former UFC light heavyweight champion and hall of famer, took an extended leave from the sport following his first-round loss to Mauricio “Shogun” Rua at UFC 97 last April -- Liddell’s second knockout defeat in a row. The 40-year-old Liddell was urged by White to retire, but instead took a spot on ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars” and continued to hint his return to the cage.

“I was taking some time off because I thought I got hurt by shots that shouldn’t hurt me and I know the only (thing) for-- that really (helps) that is giving time -- you need to rest from those kind of things,” said Liddell.

Liddell, who once touted an eight-fight knockout streak in the Octagon, said he didn’t as much as hit a pad from April to December, but continued his grappling studies with Eddie Bravo and Scott Epstein at 10th Planet Jiu-Jitsu in Los Angeles.

“I am going to mix it up a little bit,” said Liddell of his June return. “I got away from that for a little while. I coached my guys to mix it up, but I think I got away from it ‘cause I like striking so much. I’m going to continue to strike. Don’t worry about that, but I’m going to mix it up more, make people guess a little more. You know, make it a little harder on guys to get a read on me.”

Liddell, who said he’s in excellent shape and around 222 pounds currently, predicted a knockout in his next bout, though it remains to be seen if that will apply to either Ortiz or Franklin.

If it’s Ortiz, Liddell said his fellow coach as it coming to him.

“He did the worst thing he could do,” said Liddell. “He motivated me to train harder than I probably would have for the fight.”

Liddell also didn’t rule out “one last run” at a UFC title.
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