UFC Hall of Famer Randy “The Natural” Couture has been in the cage with both Chuck Liddell and Tito Ortiz. Liddell and Ortiz meet for the third time on Saturday in Oscar De La Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions at The Forum in Inglewood, California. Before they step in the cage, Couture weighed in on the trilogy bout.
“Well, I was actually very happy that they decided to do this through Golden Boy. I’ve been hearing the rumors. Obviously, I see Tito a few times a year at some of the charity events we do and I see Chuck quite often. Actually, he does some of his strength and conditioning at Unbreakable Performance in L.A. at mine and (Jay) Glazer’s gym there,” Couture told Submission Radio.
“So, I’d heard the rumors that they were working on putting this fight together and I’d actually trained with Chuck a few times a year ago when he was kind of testing himself out to see how he felt and see if he could get back into fight shape.
“And so I wasn’t surprised when they finally got it all signed and done. And again, I was very happy they decided to go with Golden Boy. Golden Boy is obviously a boxing organization and they’re using the boxing model – 75 percent of the income from that fight and all the fighters that fought on that card are gonna receive the money that comes in – and that’s a little bit different model than any of the other UFC or the MMA promotions are using. So, I hope they both made a boatload of money and that it goes very well and that Golden Boy decides to stay in the MMA business and create another viable outlet for mixed martial artists to make a living,” added the former two-division UFC champion.
Footage of Liddell hitting pads sparked concern among fans, and Ortiz used the opportunity to take shots at his opponent. The 48-year old appeared slow, but Couture give too much credence to the footage.
“I don’t place too much stock in a lot of that. He’s done some mitt workouts and some things in Vegas at my gym here when he’s been in town. Everybody wants to scrutinize and talk, and it’s still all training. It’s still all leading up to fight night. And if he gets the taper right and gives his body some time to recover walking in there then he could have a very good night,” he said.
Liddell last fought in June 2010. He’s been out of the fight game for eight years.
“There are a lot of questions. Anybody who sat out for eight years and now they’re gonna jump back into a high-level fight like that, there’s always gonna be those questions. Ring rust and obviously three of his last four fights didn’t go very well. So, those questions start to pile up and people add on to that. And at the end of the day, he seems game, he seems happy to be in this. He’s motivated, working hard, and it’s gonna be an interesting night,” said Couture.
“I did an appearance with him a few months ago in Washington DC, we did a signing together and I tell you what, he was as fit as I’d seen him in a long time. He was clear-headed and seemed like he was excited about this opportunity. I think the real question is, after eight years off, are we gonna see the same Chuck Liddell that we’re used to seeing? And I’m sure Tito’s counting on that we’re not, that it’s not gonna be the same Chuck Liddell.”
Ortiz, 43 years old, last fought in January 2017 under the Bellator MMA banner. He’s been active in recent years. Since Liddell’s retirement in 2010, Ortiz has competed 10 times.
“Obviously, Tito’s been active. He fought twice last year in Bellator and he’s been in fight shape. And even though he had to take a little time off for some of the back and neck things he had going on, he got right back after it. So if you’re a betting man, that’s probably gonna get you to swing or lean a little bit towards Tito being a little more prepared for this outing,” said Couture.
Stylistically, the match-up is the same as it was when the two first met at UFC 47 back in April 2004. Liddell will be looking to score his third knockout win over Ortiz and Ortiz will likely look to put “The Iceman” on his back.
“I think if he’s smart and game planning, he needs to come out and find a way to get a hold of Chuck and put Chuck on the ground and make Chuck fight off of his back. That’s not something we’ve ever seen Chuck do really and that certainly lends itself to Tito’s style. That’s where he’s won over 90 percent of his fights, planting himself on top of somebody, using those elbows and the ground and pound to really take a lot of gas out of people and work people over,” Couture said.
“I think hopefully he doesn’t think he’s got something to prove. Obviously, he lost to Chuck twice, so the reason this fight’s happening is cause he wants to prove something, that he can beat Chuck, at least at this stage of their careers. So it’s gonna be interesting how he approaches Chuck. Is he gonna make Chuck wrestle him? Is he gonna stand around and trade with Chuck? Which I think is probably a horrible idea, but you know, it’s part of the parcel. You gotta be able to trade a little bit, even if you want to get into range to take him down.”