Sunday, February 25, 2007

Liddell is open for anything

Chuck Liddell’s next fight is at the end of May, at which time he will be carrying a winning streak of roughly four years. The opponent? Hasn’t been determined yet. But that doesn’t mean the UFC’s light heavyweight champ doesn’t have a challenger list of his own.

“I want Quinton (“Rampage”) Jackson,” Liddell said of the man who defeated him in 2003. “He’s the last loss on my record. The biggest thing for me is I want to avenge my loss.”

The Rampage fight is on everyone’s must-see list, but Rampage is looking for a couple of more tune-ups before stepping in against Liddell. So, Liddell’s revenge won’t happen in May, but there’s a good chance it will go down by September, Liddell’s subsequent fight.

And then?

How about heavyweight Mirko Cro Cop?

“I’d go up in weight to fight him,” Lidell said of the Croatian strongman. “I’ve got no problem doing that. There’s certain guys I’d do that to fight.”

Cro Cop, Pride’s open weight champion before joining the UFC, makes his second organizational appearance at UFC 70 in Manchester, England, where he will headline against Gabriel Gonzaga on April 21.

“I think it’s a fight that everyone would want to see,” Liddell said of the thought of moving up in weight to fight Cro Cop. “And he’s not terribly big. He could move down and make my weight if he wanted to.”

Liddell’s immediate future brings him to Boston today. He is here on a promotional tour for the new film, “300.” It’s a saga set during the Battle of Thermopylae in ancient Greece. The story centers around a whole other class of ultimate fighters, Spartan warriors, who, though terribly outnumbered, stand up to the entire Persian army.

Liddell is not appearing in the movie, but the producers sought him out to push the film around the country. “They thought I’d be good, coming from a fighting sport,” he said.

It’s just one of many demands for Liddell’s services. On the night of this interview, he was attending a charity auction in Tampa, though sporting a horrible cough. Every few minutes, he was interrupted by fans seeking his autograph or asking for a photograph. He arrives today in Boston (check out Liddell’s itinerary below), and then it’s on to Toronto, Chicago, Dallas, San Diego, back home to San Luis Obispo, Calif., for a day, and then off to UFC 68 in Columbus, Ohio, on March 3.

As the popularity of mixed martial arts continues to rise, Liddell is consistently front and center. One of his most recent photo-ops was the one he just shot for Sports Illustrated. SI plans to feature Liddell in its “Players” section in the near future, recreating some of his workouts for one of the magazine’s weekly features.

“They wanted to see a lot of workouts,” Liddell said. “Then they pick from what I had to do. I think I did eight different exercises for them and they pick five. They’ll write up how I did them and what I did.

“It’s the first time (the UFC) has been in that magazine. It’s great that a national sports magazine, a mainstream magazine, is taking us seriously.”

If there’s anyone to take seriously, it’s Liddell, who’s counting down the days until he can get home for an extended period of time and nurse that cough. “I’ve got to get back to training,” he said, though against whom doesn’t seem to faze him too much.

“They can throw anyone they want at me,” Liddell said of the UFC matchmakers. “That’s up to them.”

Chuck does Boston

Liddell arrives in town today to screen the movie “300” at the Boston Harbor Hotel. He will introduce the film, which is set to open March 9 in the theaters. After the evening screening, the rest of his night is free.

Tomorrow, he has three interviews set up. He is scheduled to do a radio appearance on the “Ramiro and Pebbles Show” on Jam’n 94.5 (WJMN-FM) around 9 a.m., and then is supposed to appear in studio on Kiss-108’s “Matty in the Morning Show” around 9:40 a.m. He’ll do a CN8 interview back at the Boston Harbor Hotel before jetting off to Toronto.

Action packed

UFC 70: Nations Collide at Manchester’s MEN Arena in England is already halfway to being sold out even though it was just announced Friday. In addition to the headline heavyweight match between Cro Cop and Gonzaga, the card also features Andrei Arlovski vs. Fabricio Werdum, Forrest Griffin vs. Ryoto Machida and hometown favorite and “The Ultimate Fighter 3” champ Michael Bisping taking on Elvis Sinosic.

Of course, UFC 68 is Saturday night in Columbus, with three very compelling matches on the card. The biggest is the return of 43-year-old Randy Couture, who will give away roughly six inches and 35 pounds in his bout against heavyweight champ Tim Sylvia. Rich Franklin hits The Octagon for the first time since losing his middleweight belt to Anderson Silva back in November. He’ll take on Jason MacDonald. Likewise, Matt Hughes starts his march toward regaining his welterweight title by taking on Chris Lytle.


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