Search icon


10th Jun 2010

UFC 115: Legends collide

Two UFC legends collide this Saturday when Rich Franklin battles Chuck Liddell. Both are beloved former champions. Both have also seen better days.


Two UFC legends collide this Saturday when Rich ‘Ace’ Franklin battles hall-of-famer Chuck ‘The Iceman’ Liddell. Both are former champions, beloved by fans. Both have also seen better days.

At 40, Liddell in particular would appear to be nearing the end of a glittering career, during which he terrorised the light heavyweight division with his wrecking-ball power. Between 2002 and 2006, he knocked out Randy Couture, Tito Ortiz and Renato Sobral – twice apiece!

He also represented the sport well. Behind the trademark Mohawk and steely glare was a college-educated, respectful man. “If it wasn’t for MMA, Chuck Liddell would be an accountant,” UFC president Dana White has quipped many times.

Recognising a blend of likeability and fighting excellence, the UFC marketed Liddell as the sport’s first crossover superstar. Magazine covers, music videos, cameos on hit shows like ‘Entourage’, and most recently, a decent showing on ‘Dancing with the Stars’ all helped Liddell become a household name.

Some of Chuck’s best moments:

Unfortunately, mainstream popularity arrived just as his famed punch resistance departed. Liddell has lost four of his last five fights, and been knocked out in three of those losses. He’s also been knocked down in each of his last five fights. Many fans and commentators are now concerned for his health.

“I’m not his father,” Dana White has continually said when criticised for allowing Liddell to remain in the UFC. And in fairness, he has done his utmost to usher his long-time friend into retirement. Following his knockout loss to Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua last April, White even appeared to announce Liddell’s retirement without the fighter’s consent.

Liddell himself has always been coy on retirement. Instead, he has talked of giving his “brain time to heal” – a disturbing notion, unlikely founded upon kosher medicine. Indeed, history shows that once a fighter has been KO’d, it appears easier and easier for the same to recur. Just ask Ricky Hatton.

Unsurprising then that White originally handpicked light-punching Tito Ortiz to face Liddell at UFC 115. Plus, the UFC could promote the bout by pitting the fighters as opposing coaches on season 11 of TUF (The Ultimate Fighter), thus exploiting their well-documented mutual hatred.

Unfortunately, things are rarely straight-forward when Tito Ortiz is involved. The controversial fighter incensed both White and Liddell by making a late withdrawal from UFC 115 due to a longstanding injury. Many suspect that Ortiz always intended to withdraw, and simply used the TV exposure from TUF to promote his clothing label. Regardless, the UFC was left in a quandary, having wasted an entire season promoting a dead bout.

Rich putting the hurt on various unfortunate individuals:

Enter the UFC’s self-confessed ‘go to’ guy. “I’m kind of a company man,” said Rich Franklin recently. “If they need something done, then I’m going to do it.” Not only did Franklin accept the Liddell bout at short notice, but he even assumed coaching duties for the final week of TUF after White fired Ortiz.

Like Liddell, Franklin is desperate for a win. At 35-years-old, and with three losses in his last six fights (including a heavy KO in his last bout against Vitor Belfort), some are questioning if he too is in decline.

There was a time (circa 2006) when a Franklin v Liddell bout would have been a mouth-watering, pound-for-pound decider. Even now, a tussle between two such fan-favourites will do solid pay-per-view figures. However, much of the intrigue now centres on finding out what’s left in the tank of two ageing warriors.

By Alan Murphy