“The American Gangster” said Wednesday at a Bellator media lunch that he initially thought Liddell would be returning to fight, so he was stoking the flames of a potential matchup. But recently, Sonnen said, he has learned that a comeback for “The Iceman” is not to be.
So one could say that any matchup between one of the most polarizing figures in MMA history and one of the most popular fighters in MMA history is, well, on ice.
“Nothing,” Sonnen said. “Dead issue. I thought that Chuck was coming back. I had good reason to believe that. He lost his job. He said he wanted to come back, then he went into the gym. This was my evidence. But I had these three pieces of evidence.”
Liddell had implied in multiple interviews over the last few months that he was eyeing a comeback. The former UFC light heavyweight champion lost his ceremonial position with the UFC — one that apparently paid very well — last year and his coach Jack Hackleman also hinted at a potential return. Liddell was even spotted having lunch in Beverly Hills with Bellator president Scott Coker.
Sonnen, 40, said he also had it on good authority that Liddell, 47, was training every day at Unbreakable MMA in West Hollywood, the gym owned by Fox NFL reporter and former MMA competitor Jay Glazer. Photos surfaced of Liddell at the facility, as well. Sonnen, who has talked his way into a handful of money fights in his career, was just trying to shoot his shot and bait Liddell.
“He played along a little bit,” Sonnen said. “He looked like I foreshadowed it correctly. But sure enough, he’s not coming back. It was just some talk. So, I let it go.”
Sonnen said he was disappointed that it didn’t come together. It was a fight he wanted. The former UFC multiple-time title contender took a few digs at Liddell in explaining the situation Wednesday.
“That bummed me out,” Sonnen said. “What I think, regardless of the way I tell the story, I think that Chuck is probably a pretty good guy. He’s gotta walk around with that haircut, looks like he lost a bet. That can’t be easy to do. … It’s not easy to be Chuck. You’re broke, you snorted all your money away. It’s not an easy to life. I don’t need me to kick him while he’s down, either. If he wanted to come back, we could agree to a match and then maybe things would be different. But I think in this setting, I wish him well.”
Sonnen is now focused on the Bellator heavyweight tournament. Though he's a career middleweight, the Oregon native is moving up to be in the high-profile Grand Prix. He’ll meet Quinton Jackson in the first round at Bellator 192 on Jan. 20 at the Forum in Inglewood, Calif.
Jackson is a former opponent of Liddell. But that’s the closest “The Iceman” and “The Gangster” will be getting in the near future.
“We will not see Chuck anymore,” Sonnen said. “He’s gone.”