Mixed martial arts legends Chuck Liddell and Tito Ortiz will rekindle their infamous rivalry in a trilogy bout later this year, under the banner of Oscar De La Hoya's Golden Boy Promotions.
ESPN has confirmed that Golden Boy, one of the world's premier boxing promotions, has signed agreements with Liddell and Ortiz. An official date and location are being finalized and should be announced soon.
"Oscar said, 'Let's get this done.' I said, 'Let's get this done,' and it took about 2½ months to make Chuck happy enough to make it happen, and it's signed," Ortiz said Monday on ESPN's Ariel Helwani's MMA Show. "This fight is going to happen this year."
The pay-per-view event will mark Golden Boy's first foray into MMA. It will take place nearly 12 years after Liddell knocked out Ortiz in the third round of their second meeting, at UFC 66 in December 2006.
"I'm proud to announce we've signed a deal for the fight between Chuck Liddell and Tito Ortiz," De La Hoya said in a statement to ESPN. "This will be huge for sports fans around the world. Ortiz and Liddell are two of the most recognized fighters in MMA history. They are legends in the sport.
"Everyone remembers their rivalry helped put the sport on the map, and we're excited to host the next and final chapter of this historic rivalry."
Golden Boy is not offering further details at this time. Liddell told ESPN the bout will take place inside a cage, not a ring, and Ortiz confirmed that.
Ortiz said the fight will be at 205 pounds, which is the same weight class both men fought in during their careers.
"It will be a strictly an MMA card," Ortiz said. "We're putting the fight together and there will be announcements as the weeks go on. We're talking to fighters that have names."
Liddell, 48, retired from MMA in 2010, at the request of UFC president and longtime friend Dana White. Liddell held an executive position at the UFC until 2016, when the company sold to new ownership.
The California native lost his last three bouts by knockout, but hinted at a comeback for years. He said he is not limiting his return to the Ortiz fight.
"It feels great to sign a deal, to be honest with you. It's as exciting as I knew it would be," Liddell told ESPN. "Golden Boy offers something different. We're partners in this. And I never get sick of punching Tito."
Ortiz, 43, announced his retirement in 2012, following his final bout in the UFC. He returned to the sport two years later for a four-fight run in Bellator MMA. He defeated Chael Sonnen via first-round submission in his most recent bout, in January 2017.
"I'm only interested in fighting Chuck at this time," said Ortiz, who has already started training again. "If anything, the rivalry is worse than it ever was. This isn't made for TV. This is as real as it gets."
Ortiz continued: "I think the itch [to return] happened after my birthday, when I turned 43 and just got back into the gym to see how my body would respond to it -- and it responded faster than I thought it would. I still feel young; my response skills are super-fast. It's been a long road, working with UFC, then working with Scott Coker and Bellator and now working with De La Hoya and Golden Boy Promotions.
"I've been busy, but Chuck comes out and says, 'Do you like to fight me?' I thought it made sense, it gives me an opportunity to redeem myself. I think all my fans deserve it, I deserve so let's play on an even playing field. I don't think I got a fair handshake every time I fought Chuck."
Ortiz (19-12-1), of Huntington Beach, California, will be seeking his first victory against Liddell. The two former UFC light heavyweight champions met for the first time in a non-title bout in April 2004. Liddell won via TKO in the second round.
The rematch at UFC 66 was a massive financial success, producing a live gate of nearly $5.4 million. It remains the ninth-highest-grossing MMA event in Las Vegas history.
"Just like boxing fans remember the historic rivalry between Erik Morales and Marco Antonio Barrera, so do MMA fans remember the rivalry between Chuck Liddell and Tito Ortiz," Golden Boy president Eric Gomez said. "But Liddell-Ortiz never got their third fight. This time fans will get to see the third fight. They'll see the culmination of a heated trilogy that was pivotal for the sport."
De La Hoya hinted at an interest in launching Golden Boy MMA earlier this year. Discussions are underway for a potential promotional tour later this year.
"I'm excited for Tito and MMA in general," said Ortiz's longtime manager, George Prajin. "Tito has been blessed to have worked with Dana White and [former UFC owner] Lorenzo Fertitta, [Bellator president] Scott Coker and now Oscar De La Hoya, who is providing Tito the opportunity to maximize his last fight against his biggest rival."
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- Edge Guerrero
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- I like bot guys. But pulling for Tito!
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