UFC legend Chuck Liddell has announced he wants to come out of an eight-year retirement and is targeting a bout against Tito Ortiz before working his way up to a fight opposite Jon Jones, who has responded to the call.
The Iceman appeared on Monday's episode of The MMA Hour and told Ariel Helwani he "never stopped missing" his career in mixed martial arts, where he rose to become UFC light heavyweight champion:
Nicole Bosco of Fansided provided quotes from the interview:
"In my mind, I'd like to fight two good warm-up fights then I'd like a shot at Jon Jones. I'm serious I'd like a shot at him, but we'll see. I think style wise, in my prime, I would have matched up with him perfect. Right now, I don't know but I would like to take a shot at it."
Liddell, 48, then elaborated that he's hoping to return to the Octagon by the end of 2018, possibly in November.
It didn't take Jones long to react to the call-out, and despite the eight-year hiatus since Liddell last fought, Bones said he'd take the match as soon as possible:
Almost eight years have passed since Liddell last fought professionally, when he was knocked out by Rich Franklin in June 2010—his fifth loss in six fights—before calling an end to his 12-year stay with the promotion.
Liddell turns 49 in December, and it's almost unfathomable to imagine any professional of that age in combat sports at this level, never mind wanting to take on the likes of recently dethroned light heavyweight champ Jones.
The veteran at least noted appreciation of those who will doubt murmurs of a comeback, per MMA writer Shaheen Al-Shatti:
Liddell beat Randy Couture in their second meeting in 2005 to win the UFC light heavyweight championship, successfully defending it four times—including his second career win over Ortiz—before losing it to Rampage Jackson in 2007.
Potential opponent Ortiz, 43, has been a lot more active in recent years and defeated Chael Sonnen in January 2017 at Bellator 170. He's fought for Bellator on four occasions since joining the promotion in 2014, having left the UFC two years prior to that.
MMAFighting.com writer Jed Meshew advised against Liddell making a return to professional fighting, and there's no guarantee the UFC, despite its long connection to the fighter, would be willing to offer him a contract:
If a fight against currently suspended Jones is his eventual goal, it may be that he has to prove himself in Bellator opposite Ortiz first, although a bout between former light heavyweight titleholders seems unfathomable.