“The Iceman” is back.
After years of teasing a potential comeback, UFC Hall of Famer and former light heavyweight champion Chuck Liddell announced Monday on The MMA Hour that he is officially coming out of retirement. The 48-year-old Liddell is targeting a third fight against rival Tito Ortiz and is hopeful a deal gets done with Oscar de la Hoya to promote the contest under Golden Boy’s much-discussed potential move into the MMA space.
“I will fight again,” Liddell declared.
“It’s a real thing. They’re working on it.”
Liddell said a deal has yet to be finalized with Golden Boy but tentative plans are for the fight to go down in November in either Las Vegas or California.
"I will fight again," says former UFC champion @ChuckLiddell. "I miss it, I never stopped missing it." Watch #TheMMAHour live: https://t.co/11sYrEm5Ugpic.twitter.com/JCyBakAYHV
— MMAFighting.com (@MMAFighting) May 14, 2018
Liddell vowed that he is serious about his comeback and is set on returning to the cage with or without Ortiz.
“It does not hinge on Tito’s participation,” Liddell said.
“I miss it. I never stopped missing it. And I kinda hadn’t really thought about it much. And then when he brought it up and we started getting going, and I started training and I started doing stuff again, getting ready to try to take this on, it made me go, ‘You know what, what if he pulls out? Am I not going to fight? Am I going to do all of this and not fight?’ Oh no, we had to have somebody backing up, and if it doesn’t work out with him, I’m [still] going to give it a shot. It’ll be somebody else, one of the guys from my past probably, most likely, and we’ll see where I’m at.”
Liddell retired in 2010 at the behest of UFC president Dana White following three consecutive knockout losses to Rashad Evans, Mauricio Rua, and Rich Franklin. “The Iceman” is one of the most popular champions in UFC history and played an instrumental role in the rise of the sport to a mainstream level. Following his retirement, Liddell was given a supposed lifetime executive role within the UFC, however “The Iceman” was released from that role in 2016 after the sale of the organization to WME-IMG.
White has publicly opposed a comeback to MMA for Liddell for years, citing concerns for Liddell’s health. White reiterated those concerns once rumblings of Liddell-Ortiz III became louder, but Liddell is unworried about the opinions of his old friend and former boss.
“With all due respect, yeah, leave it alone. Leave me alone,” Liddell said. “You promised something to me for a long time and it’s gone. But it’s not even that. I want to fight. I miss everything. Everyone always asks me, ‘Hey man, this must be a lot better than fighting?’ No, no, I still — that was my favorite thing. My wife asks me, ‘How do you like doing that?’ My wife asks me that all the time. I still miss it. I miss everything. I miss cutting weight. I miss everything that goes with it, everything, the good, the bad. It’s all of it. I mean, I miss hanging out the gym, going and working out every day. It’s fun to me.
“It’s [White’s] opinion. It’s how he feels, and that’s okay with me. You’re entitled to your opinion and what you think. Everybody’s entitled to their opinion. If I can’t fight, if I don’t feel like I can perform or go out there and perform, I wouldn’t. But I feel like I can still perform, especially enough to beat Tito, so I’ll be ready.”
Liddell acknowledged that he’s heard some the same concerns from fight fans that White has shared, but noted that he’s heard ample amount of encouragement for a potential comeback as well. Ultimately, he explained, it’s his own decision, and if someone is uncomfortable with it, no one is mandating that they to tune in.
“I respect that, and you know what, it doesn’t bother me,” LIddell said. “There’s plenty of people telling me, ‘Please stay. You’re doing this, you’re doing that. Please stay.’ And yeah, hey, if you don’t like it, don’t watch. It’s okay. If you don’t like it, don’t watch. Go watch the old films of me, it’s okay. It’s okay with me.
“I always say I’m blessed for how well I feel for being 48 and fighting for about 20 years.”
Liddell said he has reached the point in the gym where he is feeling good and moving well again. He plans to make some defensive adjustments to his style after ending his UFC run the way he did, but promised to still be the heavy-hitter he once was in his prime. He is currently a free agent and is open to signing with whichever promotion offers him the best deal, but thus far is most excited about a potential return to pay-per-view with Golden Boy. Liddell added that he currently weighs 225 pounds and that Ortiz is also a free agent.
“The Iceman” fought and defeated Ortiz twice across two blockbuster contests in 2004 and 2006, knocking out Ortiz both times.
Ortiz, who also hung up his gloves in 2017, announced earlier this month on Twitter that he was coming out of retirement to face Liddell for a third time.
“He thinks because Dana doesn’t want to put the fight together, that he thinks Dana thinks he can beat me,” Liddell said. “He’s trying to convince himself he can beat me, I think.
“He’s easy to get up for. My fans, no one gets tired of me hitting him.”