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MMA SUBMISSION: ICEMAN SAYS, "I'LL BE BACK."

5/2/2008
If only Eugene O'Neill had lived to write The Iceman Toreth His Hamstring. Getty Images

For a decade now, Chuck Liddell has been "The Iceman." But for the next four weeks he'll just be the iced man, icing his torn right hamstring every day as he tries to come back in late summer to the UFC.

Liddell first felt a pop during a sparring session earlier this month after hyper-extending his leg. When he tried to bounce back up, he couldn't. Eventually, he scraped himself off the ground, had it checked out and limped home to call UFC president Dana White to tell him he was iffy for his June 7 fight.

It was a big blow for the UFC's London card, since Liddell's scheduled opponent, Mauricio "Shogun" Rua, had already been scratched with a torn ACL. Rashad Evans, winner of The Ultimate Fighter's second season, stepped in, which made Liddell/Evans a legit headline event.

Then Liddell's hammy went. The Iceman told White, about the injury and asked for 10 days to figure out if he could fight. White said okay, and for the next few days, Liddell pushed himself to get ready.

"I was going to fight, too," Liddell says. But then White called and said to forget it, to heal up and come back 100 percent.

Physically, it was the right decision, but it couldn't have been easy for White, a long time friend of the fighter. Liddell is still a mega-draw, and without him, the main event drops down a level, to Matt Hughes vs. Thiago Alves.

"If I really told him he should let me fight, he would have listened to me," Liddell says. "But he didn't give me a chance. It's disappointing right now, because I still think I could have won. I think it'll all work out, though—I'll be back."

The speculation now is that Liddell could return this September against Shogun. But he also wants a piece of Keith Jardine, who decisioned him a year ago, and believes a win against Shogun would put him in position for a title shot against champion Quinton "Rampage" Jackson or challenger Forrest Griffin.

"I don't think I'd need another win before that," Liddell says. "But it's not up to me."

Rampage is the favorite against Griffin, and is 2-0 against Liddell, so the Iceman will probably have to work his way through most top challengers before he leapfrogs to the front of the title line. Now, if Griffin were to win decisively, and a Rampage rematch isn't scheduled, Griffin vs. Liddell would be an intriguing fight. Griffin is already a legit star with a following, and a win against Rampage would only boost his image. Throw in the fact that Liddell was Griffin's coach on the first season of The Ultimate Fighter, and that's an easy sell.

Liddell also wanted to clarify his recent exchanges with Elite XC's Kimbo Slice: He doesn't dislike Slice, he just isn't sold on the former street brawler.

"Until he fights somebody real, it's impossible to say he's a great fighter," he says.

But what about trainer Bas Rutten's repeated declarations that we should take Slice seriously?

"Well, Bas' word means a lot," Liddell says. "And I see that he's saying that everywhere. If he comes up to me and swears that Kimbo is great, then I'll believe it. But he hasn't done that."


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