Chuck Liddell’s comeback attempt didn’t go as planned.
“The Iceman” suffered a brutal first-round knockout loss to longtime rival Tito Ortiz in a trilogy bout on Saturday night at The Forum in Inglewood, Calif., which served as the headlining attraction of Golden Boy Promotions’ debut foray into mixed martial arts. Competing for the first time since retiring in 2010, Liddell lost to Ortiz after previously defeating him twice via KO/TKO in 2004 and 2006.
The disappointing outing marked Liddell’s fourth consecutive knockout loss in devastating fashion — a streak that dates back 10 years — however, even at age 48 and with his ability to take a punch obviously compromised, the living legend and former UFC light heavyweight champion isn’t ready to call it a career just yet.
“I don’t want to think about that right now,” Liddell told reporters Saturday at the post-fight press conference. “I mean, I’m not in the right state of mind to really talk about whether or not I’m done or not. But I felt good out there and I had fun, so we’ll see.”
In a stark departure from his previous two bouts against Ortiz, Liddell was soundly outstruck by “The Huntington Beach Bad Boy” from pillar to post.
Ortiz said afterward that his gameplan was to outbox Liddell rather than rely on the wrestling that has generally typified his game, and Liddell admitted to being too cautious in his own approach after spending eight years on the sidelines.
“I loved being in there,” Liddell said. “You’ve got to understand, I love fighting. I don’t do this for money. I never did this for money or fame. That’s not why I started. I did this because I love being out there, I love fighting, so I was at home in there. I was ready to go. I wish I’d done a few things different, obviously, but it happens.
“I was kinda gonna slow play him, just make sure he didn’t get any confidence, get a cheap takedown, but I should’ve fought the way I normally do. I don’t care if you take me down, I’ll get back up. And I should’ve came at him with a fast pace. I was kinda back and forth between hanging back and moving fast. I went with the ‘hang back,’ kinda get it going and figure out what he’s doing, and I should’ve gone after him fast. But then again, would’ve, could’ve, should’ve. Would it have changed the outcome? Who knows, so whatever.”
The finishing sequence was a nasty one considering Liddell’s age and history with knockout losses. Ortiz first rocked Liddell along the fence then dropped “The Iceman” with a right hand to the head. A few extra follow-up shots were enough to separate Liddell from his consciousness, with the official time of the stoppage coming at 4:24 of the opening round.
Afterward, Liddell downplayed the severity of the knockout and indicated that he was OK health-wise.
“I feel great right now,” Liddell said. “I mean, I’m fine. I don’t feel bad. I don’t think it was a bad knockout. I was able to answer all of the questions in the corner right away when they came up and asked me, ‘Where do you live? Where are we?’ All of the questions, I was able to answer them all right away, so I’m fine.”
Liddell added that he has “respect” for Ortiz despite their bitter decades-long rivalry and congratulated his fellow UFC Hall of Famer for his victory.
Although he may not be sure about his next move, Liddell promised that the experience of returning to battle Ortiz once more had rekindled something inside of him that will ensure he stays in the gym for the foreseeable future — even if it’s only in a supportive role.
“The one takeaway I have from this is that I will definitely be in a training camp again,” Liddell said. “I don’t know if it’ll be for me or for someone else, but I miss being in the gym and getting ready for a fight, or getting someone else ready for a fight. So I will now be more involved in training guys — at least training guys if not fighting, but for sure training guys.”