Tito Ortiz Will Be Chuck Liddell's Stepping-Stone into Uncertainity

Joe SchaferCorrespondent IJanuary 28, 2010

Chuck “The Iceman” Liddell, an esteemed pillar of mixed martial arts and UFC hall of famer, only one of seven inductees, made a brash statement in a recent MMAjunkie interview underlining a bold agenda for his future as a fighter.  At the seasoned age of 40, the former light-heavyweight champion has proclaimed to the MMA realm his desires to forge ahead on a four fight journey that ends with a title shot.

"At this point, I'd like another fight after (Ortiz)," Liddell said. "Hopefully Dana's happy with me if I get two wins, and I'd like a shot at a contender and then a shot at the title. That's four fights.  That's about as far forward as I've thought. But that's what I'd like to do."

What would possess a 40-year-old legend, with nothing left to prove in the sport, to add to his recent 1-4 record—which includes three catastrophic knockout losses?  The severity of the losses caused UFC president Dana White, a close friend of Chuck’s, to campaign for the fighter’s retirement in the press after his loss to light-heavyweight contender, Maurico “Shogun” Rua, at UFC 97 back in April of last year.

White’s main concern was the possibility of Liddell sustaining more head trauma in future fights, which in the long-run would do nothing to preserve his friend’s health.   The risks are not imaginary.  So who or what is the sinister culprit preventing Liddell’s career from resting in peace? 

One could theorize a multitude of reasons—pride, passion, relevancy, denial, peers.  While Randy Couture is viewed as a modern marvel to fans, his body’s ability to rebel against Father Time’s harsh demands may be a cruel reality check for his peers.  “The Iceman” seems to believe there is extra room in Randy’s aura of exemption.

"Randy, they were glad he retired after I knocked him out twice," Liddell said. "He had never been knocked out in his career. I knocked him dead the second time, and everyone went, 'Oh, it's over. He's done. He's too old now.'  He came back, and he's still fighting. He won the heavyweight title. I just needed some time off."

Is Liddell’s comeback fueled by another peer and his paternal attitude, expressed publicly, that was borderline insulting?  Chuck never struck anyone as an obedient conservative type, willing to suppress his innate free-spirit and except things as they are told.  In reality, the Santa Barbara native lives life on his cuffs—more accurately, on his incognito “six-pack” that has been carefully sculpted during the many after-parties throughout his career.  

"I don't think I have anything to prove, but I would like to prove [White] wrong," Liddell told MMAjunkie.com at Monday's TUF 11 media day. "I'm not too old. I can still fight.  It is what it is. I'll keep arguing, and [White] will keep arguing with me. It doesn't matter. I've just got to show him I can perform. If I perform, he'll keep letting me fight."

Whatever the reasons, Chuck’s pending return will be met by stiff competition in arguably the deepest division in the game, the UFC’s 205-pound stable.  As familiar as his old stomping grounds may seem, it is a turbulent division that hasn’t produced a long reigning champion in years—not since the days when Chuck was putting people to sleep with overhand rights as an alpha-male title holder.

A fairytale comeback is not in store for the living legend.  There will be no trailblazing through a division saturated with names like; Machida, Shogun, Jackson, Evans, Forrest, Jones, Nogueira, and potentially, Anderson Silva

Liddell has a four-fight plan to regain the glory of yesteryear that includes a bout with rival coach, Tito Ortiz, from the latest installment of the Ultimate Fighter .  In order to get free-range with our imaginative speculations, we must suspend our disbelief and assume Chuck will come close to resembling the 205-pound terminator he was a couple of years ago.

But, it’s four grueling fights, aches and pains from four training camps, stepping onto the unforgiving canvas four more times, being surrounded by the claustrophobic chain-linked sides of the octagon…

Ok, ok, I got carried away and let the inner pessimist tap-dance on the keyboard.  Back to the point at hand.

Let’s formulate the two most realistic and flattering paths in front of Chuck before the curtains are drawn.

The one path, envisioned by Liddell, is paved in gold and impressive victories that lead straight to a title fight.  Behind the finely-tuned Iceman are the dismantled bodies of Tito, Evans, Rampage, and Machida, strewn across like breadcrumbs on a rejuvenated legacy that ends with a validated Liddell vacating the belt as soon as he wins it.

The other path, created from the cobblestones of reality, is paved with a less-than-glorious exit from a vibrant career tainted by stubborn pride in the end.  The first winding turn has Liddell etching out a decision over Tito, followed by a misleading KO victory over a washed-up Mark “The Hammer” Coleman. 

What is mistakenly taken as a rebirth in contention, Liddell revisits old demons in his third fight by getting leveled by an established Jon Jones, who goes on to fight for the belt himself. 

After claiming he “merely got caught” and pleading with Dana for one more crack at a top contender, Chuck will find himself paired with a fellow legend, Randy Couture, getting billed on a headlining fight that “will send two decorated legacies off into the sunset” regardless of the outcome.

The match generates mind-boggling pay-per-view numbers as millions witness what turns out to be the “fight of the century” and the last time we see Couture’s hand raised. 

Couture’s ground and pound victory would leave the series open-ended at 2-2, leaving people pining for a final fight—a colossal rubber-match that never comes to fruition, only to be played out in the minds of fight fans or in the digital octagons of future undisputed games. 

Ok, so maybe Chuck has more than two paths, which were fabricated by a columnist with a hyperactive imagination, to choose from in 2010.  Regardless of Liddell’s fighting future, his hall of fame status will not get revoked and his importance to the sport can never be reversed. 

With that said and as hard as it may be—Chuck, listen to Dana and hang up your eight ounces of leather with your head held high after the Tito fight.