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Chuck Liddell Paints His Nails

The much-anticipated ESPN Magazine cover story on Ultimate Fighting Championship light heavyweight champ Chuck Liddell is now online, and it gets this out of the way up front:

He has on flip-flops, which reveal his toenails. They are painted an implausible neon pink. A [World Extreme Cagefighting] fighter walks by, slaps Liddell on the back, then notices the toes. "Look at that gayness," he says, cocking his head.

The sport of mixed martial arts will be better off when its participants don't nonchalantly toss around terms like "gayness," and it will also be better off when profiles of its most popular athletes don't have to go into the question, as the ESPN Magazine cover story does, of whether mixed martial arts is a legitimate sport at all.

The profile is likely to appeal more to people who don't know much about Liddell than it is to hard-core fans. It doesn't break a lot of new ground or reveal anything shocking.

But the mere fact that a UFC fighter is on the cover of ESPN Magazine is groundbreaking. If De La Hoya-Mayweather was the fight to save boxing, the May 26 fight between Liddell and Quinton Jackson may be the fight to introduce mixed martial arts to a mainstream audience. That would be great for the fans who don't know what they're missing.

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Bruce Willis Endorses UFC Over Boxing

Jim Lampley: Boxers Have Skills You Can't Find in UFC

Randy Couture Heading for Sports Illustrated Cover?