File Photo: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
The UFC on Monday made official a matchup that for weeks it had vehemently denied and appeared to have worked to cover up.
Hall of famer Chuck Liddell and former middleweight king Rich Franklin will square off in the UFC 115 “Liddell vs. Franklin” headliner on June 12 at the GM Place in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. The promotion confirmed the main event the day before tickets went on sale to UFC Fight Club members and three days prior to their being made available to the general public.
Liddell was originally expected to meet arch rival Tito Ortiz for a third time at the event, as the two former champions are coaching opposite one another on Season 11 of “The Ultimate Fighter” reality series; the season premiered on March 31. Ortiz’s immediate future remains unclear.
Sherdog.com reported the Liddell-Franklin matchup in March, citing multiple sources. White later issued a public denial via Twitter and pointed towards a fight pairing Franklin with Randy Couture. “We are doing couture vs franklin not chuck,” his post read. On March 29, the UFC held a media conference call to promote the Liddell-Ortiz rematch, even though numerous outlets had reported the fight was no longer happening. Ortiz was not present on the call.
“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 during the call. “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 [during taping of ‘The Ultimate Fighter’].”
Liddell also addressed the Franklin report directly during the call, either unaware the change had been made or toeing the company line.
“I hope that’s not true,” he said. “I want [Ortiz] bad, so this would really upset me if this doesn’t happen.”
The 40-year-old Liddell last competed in April 2009, when he succumbed to first-round strikes from 2005 Pride Fighting Championships middleweight grand prix winner Mauricio “Shogun” Rua. Urged by White to retire, Liddell instead took a spot on ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars,” hinting all the while that he intended to return to the cage. He has lost four of his last five fights but carries with him one of the sport’s most impressive resumes, including a pair of wins over both Ortiz and Couture.
The 35-year-old Franklin has not fought since his technical knockout loss to Vitor Belfort in September. He holds notable victories over Brazilian legend Wanderlei Silva, the world-ranked Yushin Okami and the late Evan Tanner.