Monday, February 26, 2007

Liddell-Silva matchup no longer on the cards, UFC rues lost opportunity

By Neil Davidson

(CP) - UFC president Dana White's dream bout of Chuck (The Iceman) Liddell against Pride Fighting Championships star Wanderlei Silva took another beating Saturday night.

As did Silva. Dan Henderson knocked out the Brazilian mixed martial arts star known as The Axe Murderer at Pride 33: The Second Coming in Las Vegas. Silva and Liddell had been seen as the rock stars of their respective MMA organizations, although the Pride man now has been beaten twice in a row.

"I'm pissed off he didn't lose to Chuck," White said in a conference call Monday. "They (Pride) threw away the biggest fight in MMA history. Not only are they No. 2, they're not the brightest bulbs on the porch either."

White has long tried to make a Liddell-Silva fight. The matchup was even announced during UFC 61: Bitter Rivals last July.

"I wanted that Wanderlei Silva fight so bad," White said Monday. "I knew Chuck Liddell would knock him out. I knew it and it's gone. I don't know, we're trying to figure out what we're going to do with Chuck next."

In October, during Pride's first card in Las Vegas, Silva entered the ring to call Liddell out.

"Many times I'm talking, I want to fight with him but he don't want to fight with me, I don't know who is the problem," Silva said in English. "Chuck, I stay here now (in Las Vegas). No possible running."

The planned November bout never did not come off, with White saying it was hard to pin down Pride officials for a deal. Pride, predictably, saw it differently.

Silva's lustre was tarnished when Croatian heavyweight Mirko (Cro Cop) Filipovic destroyed him at Pride's open-weight tournament in September. And the dream Liddell matchup evaporated Saturday as a dazed Silva was led out of the ring following the KO at the hands of Henderson.

White says Liddell will probably move up in weight to take on marquee heavyweights.

"Chuck doesn't have too many more options now at light-heavy and Chuck's already talking about going after a couple of the bigger guys."

Quinton (Rampage) Jackson remains a light-heavyweight (205-pound) option for Liddell.

Asked if Pride's Mauricio (Shogun) Rua would make a good substitute for Silva against Liddell, White said: "Nobody knows who the hell Shogun is."

Pride took aim at Liddell on Saturday night as the Japanese-based circuit fired a few shots at its American rival organization during its pay-per-view show.

Pride showed footage of Liddell lying face down in the ring (The Iceman was beaten by Jackson in a 2003 Pride bout). It also suggested its roster of world fighters was superior to the UFC's.

"When you're No. 2, that's the kind of (stuff) you need to do," said White, who was in England on the weekend and did not see the Pride card.

"You don't see me doing that at my events because I don't have to. I'm No. 1."

UFC Hall of Famer Randy Couture was at the Pride card and didn't like the sniping.

"I think if you have tell everybody you have the best fighters in the world then you probably don't," he said Monday.

White also noted UFC castoff Nick Diaz had demolished Pride star Takanori Gomi on Saturday.

"Nick Diaz was cut by us because he lost so many times," said White.

"I've always been willing to prove that we've got the best fighters in the world," he added. "Now it's all just unfolding anyway. It's happening.

Monday's conference call was intended to set up Saturday's UFC 68: The Uprising in Columbus, Ohio, where Tim Sylvia is set to defend his heavyweight title against Couture, who is coming out of retirement after a year away from the game.

In other major bouts on the card, former welterweight champion Matt Hughes takes on Chris Lytle in his first fight since losing the 170-pound title to Montreal's Georges St. Pierre. And former middleweight champion Rich Franklin takes on Jason (The Athlete) MacDonald of Red Deer, Alta., in his first bout since losing the 185-pound crown to Brazilian Anderson Silva.

In other comments from White:

-The winner of the MacDonald-Franklin fight is in line for a title shot.

-The winner of Sylvia-Couture will meet the winner of the UFC 70 bout between Filipovic and Gabriel Gonzaga.

-If Hughes defeats Lytle on Saturday and St. Pierre disposes of Matt Serra in UFC 69 in April in Houston, the two will meet for a third time - hopefully in Canada. "I'd really love to do Hughes-St. Pierre up there," according to White.

-White expects Hughes to come out Saturday "like an absolute beast" against Lytle.

-Sylvia has not got his due as heavyweight champion. "I think it's the way Tim represents himself sometimes," White said. "Obviously when you're flipping fans off, you're not going to have many of them." Sylvia says he has a problem with being "very outspoken," adding he will have to learn to count to three before he answers questions.

-Lightweight champion Sean Sherk will take on Hermes Franca this summer when the 155-pound title-holder recovers from shoulder surgery.

-The UFC is returning to Southern California in September, probably to Anaheim.

-The UFC will have Pride heavyweight champion Fedor Emelianenko on its books "some day." "I'm getting everybody," White added. "They're all going to be with us."

-The UFC is in 160 countries on some form of television, be it pay-per-view or free TV. White also said he expected a deal with one of the major Mexican TV networks this year.

-White was almost speechless when told of New Era Fighting, a newcomer to the MMA scene, and its plan for a US$1-million winner-take-all tournament finale against veteran fighter Kimo. "I'm in New York (and) there's about 50,000 people downstairs right now that can beat Kimo."

-Asked if he can foresee a time when women will fight in the UFC, White was blunt, replying: "No. I can't."

In other news from Monday's conference call:

-Franklin said a video clip on the UFC 68 official website in which he said he would knock MacDonald out in the first round was taken out of context. Franklin says it was a partial answer to a question about his best-case scenario outcome. "What you're seeing there is a splice to video. You've never in the past seen me make a prediction like a first-round knockout for a fight and I've never been one of the type of people to ever do that. So that's the story on the video."

-Sylvia says while he and Couture are friends, he's not happy at Couture's criticism of his recent fights. "So I'm kind of taking it a little personal and I'm going out there to prove a point. And the point is I'm going to knock Randy's ass out." The champion also said his ground game is underestimated.


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