Last Saturday night, in the headlining bout of the first MMA card promoted by Oscar De La Hoya and Golden Boy Promotions, former UFC light heavyweight champs Chuck Liddell and Tito Ortiz stepped into the cage for a third time. Unlike the pair’s first two bouts, Ortiz won this fight, putting Liddell down with a crackling first-round punch.
While this Tito Ortiz vs. Chuck Liddell trilogy fight generated quite a bit of buzz in the combat sports bubble, not all of it was positive. Many fans felt the 48-year-old Chuck Liddell should not have been allowed to fight again, and after Liddell’s rather brutal knockout loss to Ortiz, these criticisms grew even louder.
Andy Foster, the director at the California State Athletic Commission, who sanctioned this fight, has heard these criticisms, and speaking to MMA Fighting, he answered them.
“Chuck wanted to do it,” Foster said. “I thought it would be competitive. At least I certainly didn’t think it was a mismatch. Your level of inactivity not withstanding, it’s hard to say it’s a mismatch when you’ve got two wins over the guy already.”
Ahead of the fight, one of the main reasons fans felt it was a bad idea was Chuck Liddell’s training footage. While he was once one of the fastest, most devastating punchers in the game, he looked fairly inert in the training footage available on the Internet, which fans saw as a clear sign of his aging.
Foster reminds that, sometimes, training footage is not indicative of what’s actually happening in the gym.
“It just demonstrated that he had been in the gym and he was training,” Foster said. “It’s hard to gauge any of that stuff. You don’t know how hard someone is going. People do different things.”
“You don’t really know how hard people are going in those things,” Foster said. “Sometimes fighters don’t want to show their best stuff. His opponent is sitting right there watching.”
Whatever the case, Foster maintains that he believed the matchup was fair, and that Chuck Liddell could be competitive.
“This would have been a whole lot easier for me if I just said no,” Foster said. “If I just say, ‘No, we’re not doing that.’ The regulations and the medical exams are not set up for the comfort of Andy Foster and whether it’s easy for me. This is a business and profession, the fight game. Chuck Liddell made money in this profession for many years. He wanted to enter this business and profession again, a business and profession he had been at the top of the world at, albeit a long time ago. If you pass all the medicals, the only thing left is, is the fight a mismatch? And I didn’t believe it was.”
That being said, he believes it’s better for the sport to promote younger fighters, rather than older ones.
“I think with the fight game, we should perhaps change the focus to promoting these younger, up-and-coming fighters,” Foster said. “I think that’s good for the sport.”
Do you think Chuck Liddell and Tito Ortiz should have been allowed to fight again?