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Chuck Liddell and Tito Ortiz care about Saturday's fight -- should you?

Tom Hogan - Hoganphotos/Golden Boy Promotions

In three days, Chuck Liddell and Tito Ortiz will square off for the third time at The Forum in Los Angeles. Their unexpected trilogy has drawn a mixed reaction from the MMA community.

Golden Boy Promotions' Oscar De La Hoya would have you believe fans have waited years for this, which is simply not true. Liddell is 48, and hasn't fought since 2010. Ortiz is 43, and lost the first two meetings convincingly.

This is not a fight fans asked for, and the jury is still out on whether it's one they even want. The UFC had an opportunity to promote it first, and passed. For the promoters at Golden Boy, it's their first venture into the sport of MMA -- and there's no guarantee it won't be their last.

One thing you can say about this fight, though? Even 15 years into this rivalry, the stakes are very real for Chuck and Tito.

Liddell wants to prove he's still got it and, frankly, never lost it. It's no secret his decision to retire in 2011 was heavily influenced by Dana White, his friend and the president of the UFC.

Very few combat athletes get to leave the sport on "their terms," but that has always been especially true from Liddell's perspective. He agreed to retire, perhaps more than chose to. This trilogy isn't a one-and-done comeback for Liddell. It's the first step in resurrecting his career.

And for Ortiz, this is a chance to rectify what he's always seen as one of the greatest wrongs of his career.

The way Ortiz sees it, the UFC favored Liddell during their rivalry and stacked the deck against him whenever it could. He has said Liddell is now a shell of his former self, and seemingly likes that about him going in. Even if Liddell is washed up, Ortiz will relish the opportunity to embarrass him.

Say what you want about their combined age of 91; both appear to be in good shape. Whether it ends up translating well to the cage or not, there is no question they have physically invested everything they have left for this fight.

Is that enough for consumers to care? Liddell's and Ortiz's final checks rely heavily on how Saturday's pay-per-view performs. Golden Boy's marketing efforts have been minimal, although ads are expected to increase this week. The online price of the event dropped by 20 percent this week.

If you're searching for meaning in a trilogy bout that will take place 12 years after the second fight, you're not alone. This fight exists because Liddell and Ortiz want it to, not because there was a demand for it.

But there's an argument that MMA still owes something to Chuck Liddell and Tito Ortiz. Each of them benefited from the rise of the sport, but each of them played a major role in that rise as well. And if they deeply care about this third fight, is the sport obligated to care about it, too?

The answer will ultimately come on Saturday.