Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The Iceman ready to get back to training, looks forward to Sylvia-Couture

By Neil Davidson

TORONTO (CP) - Tampa, New York, Boston, Toronto, Chicago, Dallas, San Diego, San Luis Obispo, Columbus, Los Angeles and New York again.

All within two weeks. UFC light-heavyweight champion Chuck (The Iceman) Liddell is on the move. "Too much travelling. I can't wait to get back to training. Just training and staying home," Liddell, nursing a cold and regretting not staying in the night before, said in an interview Tuesday morning in the offices of The Fight Network.

The 37-year-old mixed martial arts star from San Luis Obispo, Calif., has been on a PR blitz of late, travelling to promote "300," a stylish made-in-Montreal film about the battle of Thermopylae where 300 Spartan soldiers took on a massive Persian army. Liddell's not in the film but producers clearly thought it wouldn't hurt to have a bad-ass fighter promote the movie. Liddell has been visiting cities for screenings ahead of the March 9 release for "300."

Travel aside, Liddell has started training again after his Dec. 30 win over Tito Ortiz at UFC 66. The Iceman has now won seven fights in a row and has not lost since June 6, 2003, when Randy Couture defeated him at UFC 43: Meltdown. Liddell has since avenged that loss - twice.

Liddell injured the medial collateral ligament in his knee in training for the recent Ortiz fight but says it's on the mend.

"It's good. Actually it's actually pretty healthy," he said. "I went home, worked out three or four times . . . No problems. So I was happy with that. That was the first time I'd really tested it wrestling."

Liddell tested out the knee at a recent workout session filmed by Sports Illustrated for a future edition of the magazine.

Surgery on the MCL can be hit or miss, according to Liddell. "I might as well not do it," he added.

Liddell plans to get back into training mode for real starting March 10. He's not sure who he will face next, but expects two or three bouts in 2007 with the first coming at the end of May. If that doesn't come off, July is the next likely window.

Liddell (20-3) sees a likely fight calendar of May, August-September and November-December.

"I'd rather keep busy than not," he said.

It's easier that way, he says.

"I have a tendency when I'm not training to cause damage to my own self," he said dryly.

Quinton (Rampage) Jackson is one likely opponent, but probably not until the fall. Liddell says Jackson turned an earlier fight down, saying he wanted another bout to prepare.

Jackson was recently lured back to the UFC. He's a natural for Liddell, considering Rampage represents his last loss - and the only one he has yet to avenge.

Liddell isn't sure who's up next.

"I really don't know. I don't know who they can find. I'll fight Cro Cop if they want me too, but I don't think they want me to do that yet either."

Cro Cop is Croatian heavyweight Mirko Filipovic, another marquee import to the UFC from Pride Fighting Championships in Japan.

Filipovic is slated to fight Gabriel Gonzaga in April at UFC 70 in Manchester, England, with the winner taking on the winner of Saturday's Tim Sylvia-Randy Couture heavyweight title fight at UFC 68 in Columbus, Ohio.

"I always want to fight the toughest guys," Liddell explained. "I want to make a point, to prove I can beat everybody."

That means tough matchups.

"By tough I mean fun," Liddell said. "Those are fights where I will be tested."

The Iceman thinks Pride star Wanderlei Silva may be yesterday's news after his KO at the hands of Dan Henderson on the weekend.

"It's hard to fight a guy who got knocked out twice - and knocked out by a 185-pounder (Henderson)."

Liddell could find an opponent elsewhere on the rival Pride circuit. Mauricio (Shogun) Rua is one option although UFC president Dana White thinks the Brazilian is not enough of a marquee name.

That's not the case with Pride heavyweight champion Fedor Emelianenko. The hard-punching Russian has just one loss in 26 outings and that came in December 2000 via a stoppage due to a cut.

"It's a dangerous fight for me, but I think I have the stuff to beat him, the right style to beat him," Liddell said of the Russian.

Liddell says he will know when to quit fighting - his body will tell him. And if it doesn't, trainer John Hackleman will.

"Once I get that feeling, then I'm done," Liddell said.

The Iceman will be on hand Saturday when Couture tackles heavyweight champion Sylvia.

Couture is coming out of retirement for the Sylvia fight after a year away from the game. He faces a big awkward opponent in the six-foot-eight, 265-pound Sylvia.

"It should be interesting," Liddell said. "Randy moved down (to light-heavyweight) because he has a problem with big guys, but they were big wrestlers. And Tim Sylvia's a striker. So I don't know.

"I think I'm leaning towards Sylvia, but . . .I think (Randy) thinks he's got a shot, he's got something that he can do."

Liddell knows all about big men. He trains with a sparring partner who's 6-10.

"If I haven't sparred with him in two, three weeks, anytime I come back to spar with him, it takes me at least two rounds to get used to that extra reach. You think you're out of a round, then all of a sudden 'ouch."'

Liddell is not fazed by the fact that Couture is 43.

"We'll see. If it goes to the later rounds, we'll see who's in better shape. Tim Sylvia's a lot of weight to be carrying around, moving around for Randy for five rounds."


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