Chuck Liddell has not completely shut the door on a comeback, and it was a reality show experience that might have given him the added urge to keep his competitive juices flowing.
The UFC legend took part in a show called Ultimate Expedition back in August. He and seven other celebrities traveled to Peru and took on the challenge of climbing the nearly 20,000-foot high Mount Tocllaraju. The series premieres Wednesday on YouTube Red and the season consists of 10, 30-minute episodes.
Liddell told MMA Fighting on Tuesday that it was an incredible experience, one that made him want to get back in some kind of action despite being retired from the Octagon.
“I’ve been retired quite a while now,” said Liddell, who hung up the gloves in 2010. “I’ve still been trying to figure out where my focus was. I’m trying to stay motivated to do things. For me, it was looking for something to give me that edge back, give me that mental toughness edge back. That drive to go do things and push yourself. I’d taken enough time taking time off and resting on my accomplishments.”
Summiting Mount Tocllaraju certainly qualifies. Liddell had never done mountain climbing before and the altitude alone, he said, was wild. Their base camp was at 14,500 feet and the high camp was at 16,000 feet.
“It was pretty crazy up there,” Liddell said. “We had to learn how to rappel, we had to learn how to ice pick up the side of the mountain. It was pretty cool.”
Liddell, 48, said he injured his shoulder in a movie stunt earlier last year and was rehabbing it. Then, he got the call for Ultimate Expedition and had only two weeks to get back into shape. He thought he’d have three months.
“I said, oh well, I guess I’ll get in shape out there,” Liddell said.
When he got back from Peru, Liddell was back in the gym often at Unbreakable MMA in West Hollywood, Calif. That is what helped fuel some of the rumors of a potential comeback in the fall. Liddell said nothing has really changed in that regard. He would consider a return to the cage for the right amount of money, he reiterated.
Liddell said he won’t come back just because of some of the things Bellator headliner Chael Sonnen has been saying about him. “The Iceman” said he saw some of the incendiary comments Sonnen made last month and he’s brushing them off.
“To be honest, it’s out of line,” Liddell said. “It’s stupid. But whatever. My bank account is still fine, you don’t have to worry. That won’t be the reason I’m coming back. I’m sure he wishes I had lost all my money so I would come back for less. For me to come back and fight him, they’re gonna have to pay me big.”
Sonnen said at a Bellator 192 media day that any potential fight between he and Liddell was a “dead issue.” He threw some heated barbs at Liddell in the process.
““What I think, regardless of the way I tell the story, I think that Chuck is probably a pretty good guy,” Sonnen said. “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. He doesn’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.”
Things heated up back in the fall with Sonnen and Liddell going back and forth on social media and in interviews. Liddell said people mistook what he was trying to say initially.
“You know him, he runs his mouth,” Liddell said. “He’s saying I turned down a fight with him twice; no one has offered me a fight with him. Like I said, he started lipping off at me when he saw me working out in the gym. I said, if I was gonna come back he’d be a perfect match. He can’t break an egg with his hands, he’s not gonna outwrestle me, he’s not gonna be able to lay on top of me — he’s not gonna pull that lay and pray with me.
“Chael is Chael. He’s got a big mouth and that’s how he’s made his living. He’s not the most exciting fighter in the world, but he’s got a big mouth and people like to watch him.”
Sonnen, 40, will fight former Liddell foe Quinton Jackson in the main event of Bellator 192 on Saturday night in Los Angeles. It’s a first-round matchup in the Bellator Heavyweight Grand Prix. Liddell said he might attend the event at The Forum in Inglewood, but he’s not sure yet. As far as who he’s picking, Liddell said it “depends on which ‘Rampage’ shows up.”
Liddell had lunch with Bellator president Scott Coker a few months ago, but the discussion was only about being an ambassador for Bellator, not a fighter, Liddell said. If he were to come back — and it’s not out of the question — Liddell said it won’t be because he needs the money and it won’t be because Sonnen is poking at him.
“If he was saying something for a specific reason to get a certain response from me, I’m not gonna let it happen,” Liddell said. “Sorry. I’m not gonna let him get to me. If it was something where he really pissed me off and I wanted to fight him, I’d show up to his house. We don’t need the money, I’ll show up to his house. We’ll find out real quick.
“The problem with him to take it serious is he takes a lot of liberty with facts. He doesn’t need his facts to be true — he just makes them up as he goes. It’s hard to get mad at someone who everything he’s saying is made up.”
It’s pretty clear to Liddell that Sonnen is just trying to lure him out of retirement verbally. Though the former UFC slugger is unsure if Sonnen understands what he’d be getting himself into.
“I don’t think he realizes how hard I hit,” Liddell said. “But he knows it’s a big pay check for him. It seems like he doesn’t mind being a punching bag for a big pay check.”
The buzz of a Liddell comeback has been coming on more and more lately. Liddell said he refuses to say it won’t happen, but that doesn’t mean it will.
“It’s always open,” Liddell said. “It depends on if it makes sense or not. The door was always open. I’m always a fighter. I still miss it and I love fighting. It’s just hard to say never.”
And the experience during Ultimate Expedition seems to be what got Liddell’s adrenaline pumping again. He said he’s working on another show that he’s very excited about, too, he just can’t discuss it yet.
“It got me hungry for more,” Liddell said of climbing Mount Tocllaraju. “It got me going.”