Chuck Liddell vs. Tito Ortiz 3 will indeed happen. And regulation will not stand in its way.
The bout between the two UFC Hall of Fame fighters was announced officially Wednesday for Nov. 24 at The Forum in Inglewood, Calif. The promoter will be Oscar De La Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions. The California State Athletic Commission (CSAC) will sanction and approve of the bout despite the advanced ages of the competitors, commission executive officer Andy Foster told MMA Fighting.
Liddell, 48, and Ortiz, 43, passed their medical exams this week, Foster said. Liddell has not fought since 2010. At the time, “The Iceman” had lost three in a row and five of six. Of those five losses, four of them came by knockout or TKO. That and the eight-year layoff has been a concern of critics of this fight — including UFC president Dana White, who has said that Liddell, his close friend, should never fight again.
Foster said Liddell and Ortiz underwent the medicals for fighters who are above 40 years old that are recommended by the Association of Ringside Physicians (ARP). Those procedures include an MRA of the brain; an EKG; cardiac testing that provides “both myocardial perfusion and echocardiographic structural assessment;” neuro-cognitive testing; blood work, including a complete metabolic panel and blood count; and an ophthalmological eye exam with pupil dilation and retinal examination.
The decision on approving the individual matchup was made by Foster. A big part of that choice, he said, was that the two have fought before twice. Foster believes it was and remains a competitive matchup. Ortiz has been more active than Liddell. He fought and beat Chael Sonnen for Bellator in January 2017. Liddell beat Ortiz by KO in 2004 and TKO in 2006.
“He hasn’t fought in a long time,” Foster said of Liddell. “But whether he’s medically fit to fight wasn’t my decision. He’s been medically cleared to fight. … I think that the Tito Ortiz matchup is reasonable. This isn’t the first time they’ve fought, this won’t be the second time they fought. This will be the third time.”
Foster said he viewed video of Liddell training and spoke to Liddell on the phone. He said Liddell “wants to compete.” And since he made the medical requirements, he will not stand in his way. That does not mean Foster would approve of Liddell fighting anyone at this stage.
“It’s pretty much beyond dispute that there was a time in Chuck Liddell’s life that he was the best 205-pounder in the world,” Foster said. “I think that’s beyond dispute. You bring a fighter up the mountain and you bring a fighter down the mountain as a regulator. Chuck Liddell didn’t start his career fighting world championship-level competition. And I wouldn’t approve him to fight a world champion right now or a 205-pound champion at the high levels or a highly ranked fighter like that.
“But Tito, on the same token, I think it’s fair to say he’s not in the prime of his career also, but he’s still a good athlete. He still wants to fight. And Chuck wants to fight. Chuck is still a good athlete. How is this not a competitive match? I think it is competitive. It was competitive the first two times. Chuck won. Just because people are coming down the mountain — to use the analogy — doesn’t mean that they should be disqualified from their chance to compete. Fighters like to fight. I think Chuck wants to compete, I think Tito wants to compete. As long as they’re medically cleared to fight, these people have clearly shown they’re good martial artists. I don’t see the problem of letting two older fighters fight each other.”
Foster, a former MMA fighter himself, said he has stopped fighters from competing before, usually when they are coming off multiple losses in a row in a short amount of time. In that way, Foster believes Liddell’s time away is somewhat of an advantage, because he hasn’t taken damage at that level in years.
“You almost want to treat this as a debut, because of the long layoff,” Foster said. “But of course, it’s not a debut. Mr. Liddell is very experienced. He’s not active, but he’s very experienced and he’s still a martial artist.”