“It bothers me a whole bunch, but it shows you what money can do to people,” said Ortiz. “It changes them. Liddell’s his own man now and for him to say that we were never friends, that’s just BS, and he knows the truth. And the first time we fought, that was one of the reasons why I couldn’t compete on the level that I usually did. It really hurt me a lot at that time, but now it’s all hard feelings. We’re acquaintances, no longer friends. When I see him, I say, ‘Hey Chuck, what’s up?’ and that’s as far as the conversation ever goes. I know in my mind, and I know it’s in the back of his mind, that we’re gonna fight again, no matter what, but this time there won’t be any friendship factor at all – this is gonna be hatred, and I think I fight the best when I hate somebody.”
Liddell would defeat Couture in their rematch for the UFC light heavyweight title and become a bona fide superstar. Ortiz would leave the UFC at the end of his contract and go through a 14-month layoff before returning to re-establish himself as one of the best light heavyweights in the world in 2006, setting up a second chapter to the most intense rivalry in the sport that would take place on December 30 of that year.
“I’m just happy to be fighting again,” said Liddell. “I love what I do, I love fighting, and I’m definitely going to love fighting Tito again. The biggest thing with my fans, they’re always asking, ‘when are you going to knock out Tito again?’ So on December 30th, that will be for them.”
“Liddell is a great champion, but his time has come,” added Ortiz. “I’m ready to get my belt back. The first time we fought I was in an unhappy place and I didn’t want to fight. Now that times are better, I want to get back in the Octagon and continue to dominate. December 30th is going to be Tito Ortiz’s day, I guarantee it.”
The rematch went the same way as the first, Liddell stopping Ortiz in the third round of the UFC 66 main event in Las Vegas. And while the two would ultimately meet a third time outside of the UFC in 2018, with Ortiz halting Liddell, it didn’t have the fire of their previous two meetings when the Hall of Famers were in their prime and captivating the MMA world.
For many fans, no feud that happened before or after those first two bouts in 2004 and 2006 was as intense as that one, and it’s one that won’t be forgotten anytime soon.
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