September 21, 2007

by Mitch Gobetz – MMAWeekly.com
Four months ago, Chuck Liddell was on top of the light heavyweight division, on the cover of ESPN Magazine and the face of the UFC. Then he ran into Quinton “Rampage” Jackson.

Jackson knocked out Liddell in the first round and became the new UFC light heavyweight champion. For many fighters, a brutal loss like that would affect their psyche greatly. That isn’t the case for “The Iceman.”

“I was ready to fight again right after it happened. I wanted another shot at it the next day,” explained Liddell. “You’ve got to put that away and just get back to training, and get back to fighting. If you let it bother you, then you can run into a long string of problems.

“Dwelling over a loss isn’t going to make it any better. It happened. It’s over. You need to move forward. Learn from what you can, learn from what you did wrong, but then move forward. It’s not going to do you any good worrying about what happened last time.”

Right after Chuck lost, a lot of media was pointing out the fact that he was going out and partying prior to his fight with Rampage, when he should have been concentrating harder on the fight. Little did many of the members in the media know that Chuck always goes out and has a good time before he fights.

“They’re looking for an excuse why I lost. Nothing’s changed. If I feel like going out with my friends and hang out with them, then I will.”

With Liddell’s mind free and clear, he believes he is ready to come back and is looking forward to returning to the Octagon.

His next opponent is no pushover in “The Dean of Mean” Keith Jardine. Jardine is coming off of a shocking knockout loss to Houston Alexander. He is hungry and has nothing to lose in this fight and everything to gain.

Liddell, however, is looking forward to getting back in there. “I’m healthy and in shape. I’m ready to go. I’m excited.”

Liddell hasn’t had to come back from a loss in about four years. Many fans feel that Liddell has a lot to prove in this next fight against Jardine. The Iceman doesn’t agree with that at all.

“I’m not trying to prove anything. I’m excited to get out there and fight again,” said Liddell. “I’m not trying to make a statement to anybody. I’m trying to go out there and win a fight. ”

Some people don’t believe that Jardine is a high-caliber opponent for Liddell, considering that Liddell was very close to having the highly anticipated bout with Wanderlei Silva that fell through once again. Liddell certainly isn’t taking him lightly though.

“You can’t overlook anybody in this sport,” said the former UFC light heavyweight champion. “He’s a tough guy. He hits hard and it should be a good match up.”

If Liddell is successful in his fight with Jardine and escapes without injuries, there are a lot of rumors that he could fight Wanderlei Silva in December. Surprisingly, Liddell isn’t even thinking about that fight at all.

“I don’t care right now. Right now, I got one thing on my mind and that’s Keith Jardine.”

Chuck’s trainer, John Hackleman, believes that there is a good chance of that happening though.

“It could happen very easily,” said Hackleman. “I don’t know if it will. It could be in the cards, if he doesn’t get hurt. Chuck doesn’t get injured very often.”

Liddell has been training very hard for this fight. In fact, Chuck went back to the gym the following week after his loss to Rampage. While many fighters would change up their training regimen following a loss, Chuck doesn’t change a thing.

“Whether Chuck fights for the title, or the next door neighbor over the property line, training is the same,” explained Hackleman. “He trains with the same guys. He trains with the same coach. He trains with the same training partners. Everything stays the same.”

This fight on Saturday night will be the first time Liddell hasn’t fought for the title in over two years. With Chuck being a contender now, has it changed his mentality as far as his motivation?

“I still enjoy the sport. It’s something to shoot for. I’m always shooting for doing something better and getting better whenever I’m fighting. Now, there’s just more options out there to fight, so hopefully I’ll fight a lot more now,” Liddell exclaimed.

“I don’t think it’s different fighting. I don’t think it’s a different mindset to train to fight. To me every fight is just as important to win. I like fighting. I’m excited any time I get out there to fight. I don’t think it matters if I’m the champion or a contender.”

One thing is for sure. It will be interesting to see how Liddell rebounds from his loss and to see if he comes out more aggressive.

Chuck’s prediction of the fight hasn’t changed with any of his opponents. He always has the same plan.

“I plan on knocking him out in the first round.”

Those are some very familiar words coming out of the mouth of the former champion and more often than not, he makes good on it. The long-term goal for The Iceman now is something that he hasn’t had his eyes set on in quite a while, and that’s the title.

“It’s important to go back and get that title back, so I’m coming after it. I’ll get my shot at that title again.”