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Palma
09-04-2008, 08:00 PM
huck Liddell talks about UFC 88 and career goals

September 4, 2008

By Elias Cepeda

When Chuck Liddell (21-5) first stepped into MMA competition over ten years ago, no one could have guessed that the quiet guy with the Mohawk and wrestling shoes would go on to become the biggest star in the young sport’s history and a dominant light heavyweight champion. But that’s exactly what Liddell did, capturing the 205lb UFC belt in 2005 and becoming a household name in the surging sport.

This Saturday he’ll face the undefeated Rashad Evans (11-0-1) in the main event of UFC 88 in Atlanta, GA for what appears to be a title contender elimination bout. Liddell lost his belt in May of 2007 to Quinton “Rampage” Jackson but rebounded impressively with a win last December against former Pride champion Wanderlei Silva.

As Liddell nears the milestone age of 40 it may seem reasonable for fans to wonder how much fight he has left in him, mentally and physically. And though only the fights themselves can ultimately answer that question, “Iceman” fans can rest assured that their guy isn’t just showing up to cash checks these days.

The dangerous striker is still passionate about his craft and as motivated as ever. And oh yeah, he’s not planning on hanging up the gloves any time soon.

“I take it one fight at a time but I plan to fight for two to four more years,” Liddell says on a recent media conference call. “I still love fighting, I still love training. I love what I do so I’ll be here as long as my body lets me. But I’d like to end on a 6-8 fight win streak.”

And the former champion also says there’s no chance he won’t be as amped up to fight an up and comer like Evans as he would be to compete in a title fight. After all, long before he was famous and made good money for doing it, Chuck Liddell was just a guy who loved mixing it up. He still does.

“Well, you know, it doesn’t take much to motivate me for a fight. But the big thing is I’m on a mission to get my, to get the title back,” he says.

Liddell and Evans were scheduled to fight one another months ago until Liddell severely tore his hamstring and had to pull out of the fight. And although it’s widely known that Liddell is perfectly willing to enter fights with serious injuries (as he did in his second fight with Tito Ortiz), he says that his leg is now completely healed.

“The injury’s great. I’m healed 100% I had plenty of time to get it healed. And it was an all muscle tear so it was able to heal 100%,” Liddell explains.

It’s likely that Liddell knows he’ll need to be in top form to take out Evans. Liddell, as always, is confident he will come out on top but also respects the former Michigan State wrestler a great deal.

Case in point is the issue of stand up striking. Does Liddell think he’ll have an advantage there?

“Of course I do, but we’ll see. It should be exciting. He’s hard to hit. We’ll see if I can catch him,” he says with both assurance and humility.

Liddell (left) still enjoys getting in “the Pit” and training

Liddell also does not put too much stock into the notion that he should be able to beat Evans easily considering their respective performances against a mutual opponent - Ortiz. Liddell has twice stopped Ortiz, at UFC 47 in 2004 and at UFC 66 in 2006, and Evans went to a draw with him in July of 2007.

“I think that’s apples and oranges…two different matchups. Styles make fights and that was two wrestlers fighting…I think Rashad got caught up in that whole first ‘big show’ thing. I think it took him awhile to figure out that he should be there. I think it took him a round and a half to realize that he belonged there,” Liddell says.

Liddell has seen Evans’ fights and believes that he does lots well. “He finds a way to win wherever he’s at. He does a good job of controlling the fight and winning fights. He’s a good wrestler, he’s good on top and he moves well with his feet so it makes for an interesting fight,” says Liddell.

But none of this is surprising coming from Liddell, who typically acknowledges the abilities of his opponents while maintaining a cool confidence without talking trash. Liddell does not usually let out the war cries until after a win, complete with his trademark arms wide in-ring celebration.

Before that time, it’s all about staying loose. From Noe Hernandez in Liddell’s first UFC fight to the current day, the sport’s biggest name has seen many gifted and skilled opponents come and go. He’s beaten most and lost to some and neither experience seems to throw him for much of a loop.

If Liddell is to fulfill his lofty goals of 6-7 more fights and a repeat title reign his contest against Evans is absolutely paramount. But you’ll forgive Chuck if it doesn’t disrupt his normal fight day routine.

“[I] relax, have a good time, goof around. That’s pretty much what I do to get ready on a fight day…right before I get real focused again but other than that the day of the fight is mostly killing time,” he details.

Chuck Liddell may not have much time left to kill in his career, but that fact isn’t going to make him change the way he does things. It’s a formula that has worked incredibly well for a decade and Liddell is out to prove it can produce a second act.