Let’s get a few things out of the way right upfront:
1. There is really no reason for Chuck Liddell and Tito Ortiz to fight a third time, seeing as how Liddell won both fights back when they were young and relevant, and both men were comfortably (not to mention, at their ages, very reasonably) retired until recently.
2. If and when this trilogy fight gets made, people will still watch it – even the ones who ought to know better.
3. If we accept both of the above points, and we resign ourselves to the inevitability of at least one more fight for Liddell (21-8 MMA, 16-6 UFC), and who knows how many for Ortiz (19-12-1 MMA, 15-11-1 UFC), then having them fight each other is really the best thing we can do for all parties involved, as dumb as that may be.
I realize that sounds contradictory. If these two don’t need to fight again (and, oh man, they really don’t), then why is it best for them to fight again? By way of an explanation, let’s start with a little bit of history.
Back in 2010, after Liddell suffered his third straight knockout loss in the octagon, UFC President Dana White essentially leveraged the former light heavyweight champ into retirement by giving him a cushy, do-nothing job as a UFC “executive.” The exchange here was clear to all parties: Liddell would get paid, and in return he would not seek any more fights, either in the UFC or elsewhere.
This was a shrewd solution to a problem as old as the fight game. How do you stop an aging fighter from continuing to compete far past the point where it’s even remotely safe? You pay him not to fight.
For Liddell, this was a sign of both his success and his decline. He was good enough to be worth preserving, but going downhill fast enough that someone felt it was worth the money to make him stop.
There was also some value here for the UFC. Say what you will about White and the Fertittas, they understood the way combat sports work. They know that, absent a compelling reason to stay retired, Liddell would eventually be tempted back into some sort of fighting arena by some promoter who cared less about his longterm brain health than about his drawing power.
By entering into this money-for-nothing arrangement with Liddell, the UFC turned him into a type of statue. He would show up when called. He would smile and wave with an enthusiasm that could best be described as “acceptable.” Most importantly, he would do no further damage, either to his body or to his legend. Plus, as long as he stayed retired, there was one less asset for potential competitors to seize.
But then the UFC sold to a sports and entertainment juggernaut in WME-IMG (now Endeavor). Budgets were reevaluated. Belts were tightened. The checks stopped rolling in. Liddell was granted the specific type of freedom that comes with unemployment.
So what did we think he was going to do – start his own food truck?
No one was exactly pushing the boundaries of their imaginations to come up with Liddell-Ortiz III. You’ve got one old fighter whose name has outlived his skills? Fine, let’s see if his most vocal rival is also available and also up for making for some quick cash.
And, let’s admit, there are definitely worse ideas for someone like Liddell. All he has to do is mention the possibility of a fight with Jon Jones, and the MMA world collectively cringes on his behalf.
Historically, that’s what happens to aging former champs who insist on hanging around. They get fed to the young lions, both to build future resumes and cash in on past fame. That’s exactly why UFC executives paid him to stop in the first place. They knew there would always be a market for what remains of Liddell’s services, and they wanted to keep him well out of it.
But if they’re not going to pay, then Liddell’s not going to twiddle his thumbs for free. Especially not when you know a part of him still feels like he was mothballed too soon. And come on, look around. So many of his contemporaries are still at it, even if some of them probably shouldn’t be. They might even be the best thing Bellator has going for it. No way Liddell’s going to sit this out.
That makes his return, in the context of our present reality, pretty much inevitable. And if you’re going to tickle our nostalgia bone, it only makes sense to pair him against someone from the same era.
Ortiz brings the eyeballs, but not a ton of danger at this point. Plus, if you’re looking for a way to sell a third fight that isn’t exactly a rubber match, maybe you could do worse than to pitch as a contest to see whose game (not to mention brain and body) has aged better in the 12 years since their last meeting. Lean into that pitch hard enough, and maybe we’ll forget that the two men are a combined 91 years old.
Does that make the fight a good idea? Well, no. But, with the way things are going, it does seem to be an inescapable one. And if we don’t like that part, maybe we need to stop being the suppliers of the money and attention that make it so.
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Source: USA Today – MMA Junkie
Read the full article here: Why Chuck Liddell vs. Tito Ortiz III might be least necessary fight that's still not worst possible idea