Sunday, March 4, 2007

As strong as "300" men

Ultimate fighter Chuck Liddell is one scary dude. Officially measured at 6’2," 204 pounds, "The Iceman" holds a mixed martial arts record of 20 wins and only three losses in the Ultimate Fighting Championship league. His scowl and tattooed cranium would scare even the most hardened goon. It seems only natural, then, that Warner Bros. sought Liddell to promote their new release about an epic battle fought by an army of hard-nosed, unstoppable fighting machines. "300," based on Frank Miller’s graphic novel of the same, tells the story of 300 Greek soldiers sent on a suicide mission to face a seemingly unstoppable Persian army numbering near 100,000. Liddell stopped into town to promote the movie and his upcoming U.F.C. bout.

The DePaulia (TD): I saw you at the movie last night. How was that?
Chuck Liddell (CL): I’d never been to an IMAX before. It was pretty cool.

TD: Did you watch the whole thing?
CL: Most of it. I left right before the end of it. It’s a little easier to get out that way and I’d already seen it a few times.

TD: How many times have you seen it?
CL: That would’ve been four. I saw it once before it was done, before I started promoting the movie.

TD: Did you actually have anything to do with filming the movie or just promoting it?
CL: Just promoting it. I think they thought it would be a good cross promotion with my fans, a good demographic.

TD: What did you think of the fights in the movie?
CL: They were really cool. Plus, I liked the story. The story was really great. I thought they did a good job of putting the story on the screen.

TD: Do you get a lot of stupid questions from fans about the fighting?
CL: Some of them get pretty ridiculous, but it’s not too bad. As long as they’re real

TD: You mentioned you had a fight in May?
CL: Yeah, I’m supposed to fight at the end of May. But they don’t have an opponent for me yet, so it might get pushed back to July.

TD: As a Spartan warrior, for your best competition, who would you want to give you the ultimate fight you could get?
CL: I’d like a shot at Fedor (Emelianenko). Everyone considers him the best heavyweight in the world. I’m a light heavyweight, but he’s a smaller heavyweight. He’s like 233 pounds, so I’d probably walk into the ring at 218. I’d be giving up about 10 pounds. I mean, he’s considered the best heavyweight in the world, so why not take a shot. When I’ve seen him fight, I think I have a shot at it.

TD: Why do you think Ultimate Fighting has grown in popularity?
CL: I think the biggest thing was getting it on free T.V., so you didn’t have to pay to check it out. Originally, that was our biggest problem, not having an outlet to go to. You’d heard about it, might think about watching it, but you’re not going to pay 40 bucks on something you’ve never seen. Also, with the reality shows, we get people on T.V. that much. I think that happened with boxing. All the good fighters stopped being on "Friday Night Fights," "Tuesday Night Fights." You used to be able to follow him, get behind a guy, know a guy and watch him through his whole career. When that guy goes on to Pay-Per-View, you can’t miss his fight. "I’ve been watching that guy forever, I need to see this fight." Whereas, when they’re all Pay-Per-View events, you don’t have a chance to get behind somebody. Plus, we only have six events, so it’s really hard to promote characters or guys, make big stars when you have 30 fights a year. That’s a slow pace. Having it on T.V. all the time, I was in a bar a few nights ago and one of my fights was on Spike T.V.

TD: You’ve got two kids. Are they gonna be into any of this fighting stuff?
CL: They don’t do martial arts. I mean, if they really want to, sure. But I’m not going to push them into it. I think my daughter’s a little more interested in horses. My son likes boxing and stuff, but I don’t know. I’m not going to push him.

TD: How does a guy with a degree in business and accounting from San Luis Obispo wind up in Ultimate Fighting?
CL: I’d done martial arts since I was 12, wrestled in high school and college. I actually kind of fell into kickboxing to keep competing while I was in school. I kept doing it, trying to make a career out of it for a while. One of the promoters knew that I’d done martial arts and he said, "Do you want to try this mixed martial arts stuff?" and I said "Sure." I was working at it, jujitsu stuff. And then he said "Hey, wanna try the UFC?" and I said "Sure."

TD: How does promoting this movie affect your training?
CL: Right now, I’m still in maintenance training, staying in shape. Once a day, five days a week. It’s not so bad. But when I start training for a fight, I start training twelve weeks out and I pretty much don’t travel at all.

TD: How would you compare the Greek soldiers in the movie to Ultimate Fighters?
CL: Well, the training. These guys train all the time, they train to fight. But it’s kind of hard to put yourself back. Those were rough days. Those guys were going out to fight knowing they’re going to die. Then again, I think you put them in any situation, they think they can win. They thought they had a shot. They were willing to die, but they always thought they had a shot at beating people. I think a lot of guys have that feeling. Like me, put me anywhere and I think I’ve got a shot at winning.

TD: When you’re in Chicago, where do you go out? I mean, a friend of mine said, "I think I saw Chuck Liddell at Tequila Roadhouse."
CL: The first time I came here, I actually wandered into that place. I came back last year, and this girl I met said, "Come see me at work at Tequila Roadhouse." The manager was like, "Hey, what’s up, it’s been a long time," and I was like, "Yeah, I thought I remembered this place."

TD: Does your family support you in fighting?
CL: My family was really supportive about anything I did, from playing chess to football, baseball, basketball.

TD: Do they come to your fights?
CL: Most of them do. My mom’s always there, my brothers.

TD: What does the future hold? How many more years do you see yourself fighting?
CL: I’ll fight as long as they’ll f**king let me. I’m hoping I’ll have enough sense, if my body’s not responding right, to quit. Right now I feel at the top of my game. Unless I just fall off all of a sudden, I should be around for awhile.

TD: Is there any general advice you’d want to give to college students?
CL: I didn’t really get a real job, so I don’t want to give any advice about that.

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