He's been told a million times not to throw the punch. And yet in one of the biggest moments of one of his biggest fights, Chuck Liddell still uncorked that ill-fated left hook to Quinton "Rampage" Jackson's body.
It's not so much the punch itself that doomed Liddell. It was the return overhand right by Jackson that unthawed "The Iceman" in 1:53 of UFC 71's main event last Saturday night. That's the right hand that knocked Liddell to the floor and led to Jackson's offensive rampage that ended Liddell's five-fight reign as the UFC light heavyweight champion. And he knew it the moment he threw it.
"My guys tell me over and over again not to leave myself exposed with that punch," Liddell said this week. "But oh well, I got caught and knocked out. What are you gonna' do?"
If you're Liddell, you go back to San Luis Obispo, Calif., his hometown, and regroup. He's catching up with friends and family, and already has restarted light training to get his title back.
It won't be easy. UFC president Dana White, a close friend of Liddell's, says he'll put the former champ back in the Octagon this summer to fight PRIDE star, and longtime Liddell rival, Wanderlei Silva. The winner of that match would be in position to fight the Jackson/Dan Henderson victor in the fall. Liddell wants to knock out Silva, then get another crack at Rampage. "That sounds like a good scenario to me," Liddell says.
One thing Liddell bristles at is the suggestion that all of those late-night Las Vegas sightings the week of the Jackson fight distracted him from defending his title.
"That's my routine," he said. "I stay up until 4 a.m., so my fight time feels like the middle of the day. I don't booze all night or anything. I go out with some friends and hang out. I always have."
Liddell has never disappeared during fight week, and he doesn't plan to do so in the future.
"That's me," Liddell said. "That's what I do. I won't change a thing. Except maybe I won't throw any more of those left hooks to the body next time."