Bellator NYC headliner Chael Sonnen expects UFC Hall of Famers Tito Ortiz and Chuck Liddell to return to the cage – he just doesn’t think they will fight each other.
“I do think Chuck is likely to compete again just because I take him at his word and I know he wants to, and I think Tito’s going to have to someday,” Sonnen today told MMAjunkie Radio. “But I don’t think we’ll see a trilogy.”
After falling short to Ortiz in a January grudge match, Sonnen (29-14-1 MMA, 0-1 BMMA) is set to settle a longstanding feud with Wanderlei Silva (35-12-1 MMA, 0-0 BMMA) on pay-per-view at Madison Square Garden in New York City next Saturday. But the fight isn’t the only marketable rivalry at light heavyweight.
Ortiz (19-12-1 MMA, 3-1 BMMA) and Liddell (21-8 MMA, 16-6 UFC) easily fit the promotional model employed by Bellator chief Scott Coker, who frequently signs old UFC stars to headline Spike-televised events.
“I’m in for it,” Sonnen said. “I like fun fights. They don’t all have to be meaningful; they don’t all have to be contendership or championship fights. So does it make sense? I don’t know if I could argue that completely, but would I tune in? Yeah.”
The former UFC champs got the MMA world talking when Liddell posted a picture of the two facing off, harkening back to the longstanding grudge that fueled two pay-per-view title fights and a stint as opposing coaches on “The Ultimate Fighter 11.”
Things appeared to be moving toward a trilogy with both fighters coming out of retirement. But then Ortiz apologized to Liddell in what many might call an uncharacteristic gesture of maturity for the brash fighter.
Liddell, of course, has twice made Ortiz eat his words. But a third fight would be money in the bank for both fighters, not to mention Bellator, even if it’s unclear whether Liddell is free of his UFC contract, which was frozen when he retired to take a behind-the-scenes job with the industry leader.
To Sonnen, one of the sport’s most astute promoters, Ortiz’s actions weren’t those of someone looking to settle a score. He expects Ortiz to return to the cage some day, but against an opponent with more competitive upside.
“I would definitely watch those guys fight, but I don’t want to see anybody fight unless both of the guys want to fight,” Sonnen said. “Even if I’m on a playground, if one kid doesn’t want to do it, I’m out. Somebody needs to break that up. I don’t think that fight’s going to happen. I do think Chuck is likely to compete again just because I take him at his word and I know he wants to, and I think Tito’s going to have to some day.”
Still sour from a first-round submission loss to Ortiz in his retirement fight at Bellator 170, Sonnen would love another crack at the retired champ, whom he calls “absolutely terrible.”
“I think Tito’s going to come back a little bit down the road,” he said. “I think he’s still got a couple of bucks from (ex-girlfriend) Jenna (Jameson) left over and she hasn’t kicked him out of the house yet, and he sucks. I think he’s got a couple of things against him, but eventually, there will be a cash grab.”
It just won’t come against Liddell.
For his part, Sonnen isn’t suffering for any lack of motivation getting ready for his showdown with Silva. The loss to Ortiz sent him back to the gym with a mission to prove he is better than his most recent showing.
There’s nothing staged about his rivalry, though. Sonnen said Bellator would be wise to keep him away from Silva as the fight approaches. What could happen might light up social media, but also cost the fighters a few thousand dollars in commission fines.
For more on Bellator NYC and Bellator 180, check out the MMA Rumors section of the site.
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Source: MMA Junkie