(Photo courtesy of Sports Illustrated.)
Chuck Liddell isn’t the easiest man to get on the phone. But our buddy Ben Zeidler pinned him down yesterday for a wide-ranging discussion on his impending title shot, Dana White’s trustworthiness, money, and tonight’s UFC 88 fight against Rashad Evans. (Quick prediction: “I’m gonna knock him out.”) So without further ado…
CAGEPOTATO: What’s the plan for Rashad Evans?
CHUCK LIDDELL: I’m gonna punch him until he falls down and then I’m gonna punch him a few more times until they stop me. Can’t give you more of a gameplan than that. Simple.
Can you handle Rashad’s wrestling? You wrestled at San Luis Obispo, but Evans is one of the top wrestlers in the sport.
I mean, that’s definitely one of his strengths and you have to worry about it, but you know, I was a Division I wrestler myself so I can handle him.
What do you see happening if the fight goes to the ground? Will you stay there or try to stand back up?
I’ll try to stand back up. The plan is to get back to the feet and make him work to keep me down. No matter where the fight is, he’ll have to work.
What from your strategy will you bring in from the Wanderlei fight and what will you leave out?
I’ll probably use just about everything.
Yeah, we saw the spinning backfist in the Wanderlei fight. Where did that come from?
I hadn’t used that in a while, but I had been practicing it in the gym. I got in the fight and I got loose and a little more focused, but I was still having fun with it. So I tried it and it worked. If you can go out and have fun with the fight, it’s easier to use those moves.
Is it easier to train when you’re not the champion? Do you have more distractions when you have the belt?
For me, I don’t think it makes a difference. Anyway you look at it, if you have the belt or not, there are a bunch of distractions.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
I can tell you that I’m hoping to fight for another 2-4 years. Hopefully, in two years, I’ll be saying I have another 2-4 in me. It all depends on my body. But if I’m not fighting, I’ll definitely be coaching, so either way, I’ll be in the fight game.
Do you trust Dana White?
Whether you like him or not, he does what he says. He’s not going to worry about popular and he’s always going to say what he wants. The guy just doesn’t have that much of a filter. [Laughs] I trust him. I’ve had some problems with Dana White, but trust was never one of them.
What does it mean for you to fight on the first Atlanta card?
It’s really cool actually. I like to be on the new market cards and be the first one to introduce everyone to the sport.
Would you have preferred to fight Mauricio Rua over Rashad Evans?
It doesn’t matter to me. When you’re at the top, everyone is a qualified guy and there’s not a big difference between the best and the guy right after him. They’re both tough guys in the end.
It looks like you will get the next shot at Forrest Griffin, provided you beat Rashad. What kinds of problems does Forrest pose?
I’m not gonna worry about that yet. I don’t want to look past Rashad, but I do think it’s a good match for me.
Have they confirmed that you will get that shot if you win?
No, they haven’t told me anything. I’m gonna ask for it and make a big case for it, but we’ll see what happens. Sometimes they make different plans.
Were you surprised to see Forrest beat Rampage?
No, I told everyone that it was a closer fight than people had it. Forrest was a 2-1 underdog and I knew the fight was much closer than that. I knew it could go either way, and Forrest came out and showed us what he has.
Did you work directly with Forrest on the first season of The Ultimate Fighter?
Yeah, I knew he had the potential and I assumed he was going to work as hard as he always did on the show. He’s a guy who just loves to be out there.
What is your take on what’s been going on with Rampage Jackson? Have you talked to him?
I don’t know everything that’s going on but I did talk to him after it happened. That whole thing was out of character for him. That’s not the Rampage I know.
Are you looking for a rematch with him? What would you do differently?
Of course. I want to get past that loss and it’s very important to me. What would I do differently? Win. Simple.
How about Keith Jardine? Do you feel that you lost that fight more than Jardine won it?
You know I’ll take that one too. I want to avenge all my losses so he’s on the list.
What do you think of other MMA organizations? Can anyone beat the UFC?
You know, those shows are good for the guys who want to fight in the UFC but aren’t ready yet. It’s good for them to get a chance to build up. We’ll see what happens with all of them though. They put on good shows.
Do you feel that fighters in the UFC are underpaid?
Other professional sports.
Any sport, really. Boxing is a good example though.
Yeah, but how much do those guys make? I don’t know the exact numbers but I think boxers who aren’t the main event don’t make much.
But there are a lot of guys like Floyd Mayweather who make 40 million a fight.
Yeah, I mean there are a few guys in boxing who can do that because they bring in so much revenue, but it makes sense for them to do that if they can carry a card on their own. I don’t know how the other MMA organizations pay. I don’t follow that.
Tim Sylvia made $800,000 in a loss on the first Affliction card.
But how did they do? Did they make money?
Yeah, that was the problem. They didn’t make any money so now they have to cut salaries for the second show.
Right, so you can pay fighters more, but the event still needs to do enough buys to make it profitable for the company.
Where do you see the sport in 10 years? Dana White says it will be as big as the NFL.
I certainly hope so. It’s a great sport and it keeps growing. I mean, I’ll be around still.
Uh, I mean, you can pick yourself.
No, I’m just saying there are some other guys in the running. I don’t like to include myself in rankings and things like that. I try to take myself out of the equation.
Anything you want to say to the fans who are excited to watch you back in action tomorrow?
Everyone should buy the pay per view and watch it anywhere you can. I’m gonna knock him out.