When the news broke a few months back that Chuck Liddell and Tito Ortiz were coming out of retirement for a trilogy match this fall under Golden Boy Promotions, the initial reactions from fight fans and the media were negative to say the least. With the fight coming this weekend, most opinions of this bout and of the pay-per-view card that Golden Boy is hosting are still for the most part negative. It seems like many are viewing it as a freak show fight for money between two aging veterans who are completely shopworn, and morally there are many out there who believe this is a fight that shouldn’t be happening. Given the current state of both men, it’s hard to disagree.
The most common concern voiced by critics of the matchup is that both men are too old to fight. That concern is very valid. Liddell is 48 and hasn’t competed since a 2010 knockout loss to Rich Franklin at UFC 115. After a career of knocking everyone else out, Liddell started to get very chinny at the end of his UFC run, suffering three straight KO losses before UFC president Dana White stepped in and forced him to retire and take a job with the company. The money from that job ran out and Liddell has the itch to fight again. He has cleared all of his medicals with the California State Athletic Commission. So why do we feel so against him fighting again? He wants to, and the commission says he’s cleared. At the same time, just the fact he’s 48 and has been knocked out so many times is concerning. I believe it’s because people truly care about Liddell and respect him that they don’t want to see him fight again and completely smear his legacy like so many others before him have. But if he wants to, we can’t stop him.
Ortiz is in a similar spot to Liddell, but has the benefit of at least being an active competitor the last few years. Ortiz is 43 now and has not competed since a 2017 submission win over Chael Sonnen. That win shows that he still has something left in the tank as Sonnen actually has looked pretty good in Bellator otherwise. At the same time, Ortiz announced his retirement for a reason. The fact he’s coming back makes this look like a pure money grab for him. He probably feels Liddell is an easy fight for him, despite the fact “The Iceman” knocked him out twice in the early 2000s. But considering all of the knockout losses Ortiz has suffered as well as all the injuries he’s had, it’s hard to actively support him competing at this stage of his career. But again, like Liddell, it’s his choice and the commission has cleared him to compete. It might feel wrong, but it’s his choice to compete and the viewer’s choice whether or not to watch. The pay-per-view buy rate for this card is going to no doubt be affected by one’s moral compass.
Even though both guys have been knocked out plenty of times and even though both are in their 40s, this is still the third fight between two legends of the sport in Liddell and Ortiz. For those of us who grew up watching the golden age of the sport, these are two of the greatest fighters to have ever lived. I don’t think either guy should be fighting, but they are fighting this Saturday night, and I am interested to see what happens. It might be a bit of a freak show fight, but it’s hard to look away from it.
Golden Boy MMA say they are here to disrupt the MMA business and give fighters another home to fight. This weekend we will find out what they have to offer. Liddell and Ortiz might be getting ridiculed by critics online, but many of the same fans that are criticizing the matchup are still going to watch it. Like Bellator’s legends fights, there’s a certain moral question to ask about this kind of matchmaking. But at the end of the day, if the fighters want to fight, it’s their decision. It’s just up to you whether or not you want to watch it. Personally, I’m going to watch this fight. I don’t agree with it, and I suspect Liddell gets brutally knocked out again early, but as a hardcore MMA nut and historian of the sport, I have to see what happens.