Chuck Liddell talks evolution & rise of MMA, Conor McGregor and Reebok deal

Campus Sports recently caught up with UFC Hall of Famer Chuck Liddell.

The former light heavyweight champion joined our online web series, “Time Out,” to discuss a wide range of topics in combat sports.

Liddell took the time to discuss the evolution and rise of mixed martial arts, his favorite fight of all time, UFC interim featherweight champion Conor McGregor, the very controversial Reebok uniform deal and much more.

The MMA legend also commented on why boxing star Floyd Mayweather Jr. may be great, but so boring to watch.

Check out the interview below along with quotes from Liddell:

On Conor McGregor

“I love his fighting style. I mean, c’mon. You know, I’m not a big fan of the big mouth and the talking a lot of trash myself, but some people like it. A lot of people like it, he likes to do it and whatever mental games you have to do with the other guy. That’s what a lot of that is, playing mental games.

“I played mental games with other guys, I just didn’t in that brash of a way.”

On Reebok impacting individuality and characters

“I don’t think that it effects personalities that much. We were just trying to get people to remember us. We didn’t have the exposure you have now. If you’ve got a personality and a good style of fighting, you’ve got all the avenues to get your game out there. We didn’t have that back then. We were struggling. We were at meetings with papers trying to get them to put us in the leisure section. Nowadays, they call me and ask for my opinion on vacation spots. It’s a total different swing now.”

On getting into mixed martial arts:

“I wrestled at Cal-Poly. I redshirted and wrestled four years there. Then, I started kickboxing with John [Hackleman] and then kind of fell into MMA. Nick Blomgren, “One Kick Nick,” was doing a show at The Orleans and he was going to put some mixed fights on the card; the old Pancrase style with open palm and you could kick and strike and do the jiu jitsu stuff. He knew I wrestled in college and said ‘do you want to do this?’ I said, ‘sure, I will try it.’ Then I started doing some jiu jitsu… As I was finishing school, I started doing the kickboxing. I didn’t want to get a real job, so I kept fighting. Right before I was starting to think it was time for a real job, this fight came up. I ended up knocking the guy out and this guy came up to me and said, ‘hey man, do you want to come fight in the UFC?’ I said, ‘Yeah, I’ve been watching it on TV. How do I do it? Put me in!’

“Back then, what we were doing was trying to figure out how to mix everything together. Nowadays, one of the biggest differences is you go into a gym and you have trainers, strength and conditioning, nutrition. You’ve got guys that know how to train MMA. They now how to train all these disciplines and how to put them all together. ”

On the payouts changing

“The first time I fought, I got a thousand dollars guaranteed. There was a chance to get in a tournament to win ten or twenty grand, but I was an alternate and didn’t actually get into the tournament. My next fight was for four grand; one grand to show up and three extra if I won down in Brazil. That was thirty minutes straight, bare knuckle, pretty much no rules. They had a couple small rules, but you could headbutt still, you could kick to the groin still and strike to the neck. It was a lot different that way, but there’s a lot more of the money element now.

“I think in a lot of ways that effects the fighting. Guys get a little more concerned about ‘what’s this going to do for my ranking’ and ‘what’s this going to do about my money?’ As a fight fan, that’s not what I want to watch.”

On Floyd Mayweather

“You watch a Mayweather fight, it is boring and he beats a guy pretty convincingly over the 12 rounds. That’s what he does. I mean, he makes good guys look stupid. He makes good guys miss and not score while he scores just enough to win rounds which is, like I said, it’s amazing what he can do as a fighter. Is it fun to watch?  Not really. Not to me, but it is what it is. You can’t argue with his results. He’s still the biggest payday, biggest everything, so more power to him.”

When did the UFC really take off?

“Okay, that’s easy: 2005. We started doing The Ultimate Fighter. I did The Ultimate Fighter and got into an argument with my manager at the time. He actually quit. He’s probably kicking himself for that, because I still paid him for the remainder of that contract but after that he didn’t have to get paid anymore. Dana said ‘man, you really need to be on this show,’ but he wanted to hold out and wait for more money. I said, ‘I am going to take my chances. I need to be on this show. This is what we need. We need to be on free TV. We need people to see what we are about and that will get us there. And that did.

“I went from being able to walk around a mall and saying ‘Okay, that guy probably knows who I am. That guy probably knows who I am and that guy probably knows who I am’ to old ladies walking up and going ‘hey, I saw you last night. Great job!’ It went that quick. After Week 2 or Week 3 of the show, people were coming up to me everywhere.

On the love from fans

“I appreciate my fans. I tell everyone I get a lot of money to do what I love for a living and the fans are why. That’s why I give them a lot of respect out in public and do a lot of nice things. As a compliment, I get a lot of people who are like ‘I never do this, but for you I had to come up and see if I could get a picture or whatever’ which is really kind of cool.

“I get a lot of respect from a lot of people. It’s cool, but I still think it’s a little weird when someone gets so excited to come up and meet me. For me it’s like, I’m just a normal guy. How are you doing?”

Favorite Fight of All-Time That You Watched

“They actually just inducted it into the Hall of Fame, the Matt Hughes – Frank Trigg one. I was actually in the back room watching because I was fighting right after. I’m a big fan of Matt Hughes; he’s a good friend of mine. And I don’t like Trigg, so I had two things going.

“Trigg hit that cheap shot and they kind of stopped it but then didn’t. It was a crazy fight. You have to watch it if you’ve never seen it. I think it’s the second fight of Matt and Trigg. When Matt picks him up and carries him across the cage and slams him, we went nuts in the back. I mean, I’m supposed to be getting ready for a fight. I fight next and actually that second fight I go out and fight Randy. It was my second fight with Randy when I got the title for the first time, so I was pretty fired up for that fight. I still get goosebumps when I hear his music coming out to watch that fight.

Favorite fight you’ve been involved in

“Well, the funny thing is it would be that Randy fight. I had lost to him before. I respect Randy, he’s a great fighter and I lost to him. Coming back and avenging my loss in impressive fashion — I knocked him out like I said I would — and finally getting the title I had been after for so long and chasing. Like, even as a kid in wrestling, I felt like I choked at state and should have beat this guy, should have beat that guy, but I would make a last-minute mistake I just felt like I almost got there but never got there. That was my point where I finally pushed over that hump. Finally. Now, I finally got that thing I had been after forever.

“That was probably the most excited I’ve been. After a knockout like that, I went a little nuts afterwards. It was fun.”

Can’t get enough of Campus Sports? Follow us on TwitterFacebook and Instagram to stay updated with the latest news and exclusive giveaways!

Josh SanchezCAMPUSSPORTS Writer
Josh studied journalism at Seton Hill University. He is currently the Editor-in-Chief of Campus Sports. Josh is currently a member of the FWAA and USBWA. His work has been featured on Sports Illustrated, ESPN.com, FOXSports.com, CBSSports.com and many others.
  • You Might Like