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Learning From UFC Champion, Chuck Liddell

By Cliff Montgomery,
Chuck 'The Iceman' Liddell continues to be a menace in the Light Heavyweight division. His strong KO victories over Randleman, Mezger, Sobral, Overeem and Ortiz--accompanied with the decisions over Bustamante and Belfort--make him one of the best Light Heavyweights in the UFC.

It's quite possible that Liddell may soon be the UFC Light Heavyweight Champion; but he'll first have to defeat one of the best the sport has ever produced.

On April 16th, Ultimate Fighting Championship's number one contender Chuck Liddell will take on Light Heavyweight Champion Randy Couture for the UFC World Light Heavyweight Championship in the main event of UFC 52: Couture vs. Liddell 2, at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. The battle promises to be one of the most exciting matches of the year in any fighting sport.

At the age of 12, Chuck Liddell began to study the martial art of Koei Kan Karate. While at San Marcos High School in Santa Barbara, California, Chuck was captain of both the football team and wrestling squad. After High School Chuck was recruited by Cal Poly University at San Luis Obispo for their Division I/Pacific 10 conference wrestling team, where he functioned as a four-year starter, eventually earning a California State Freestyle Championship. Through it all the guy who would one day be known as 'The Iceman' continued to train--and earn--a black belt in Karate.

After graduating from Cal Poly with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Business/Accounting in 1995, he began to try a new form of combat competition: Kickboxing. Chuck joined The Pit in Arroyo Grande, California where he began training with John Hackelman. Chuck's talent for standup striking ultimately earned him heavyweight titles in the USMPA, WKA, and two national Kickboxing titles .

After viewing UFC I, Chuck knew that would be his destiny. Liddell entered the UFC game (UFC 17) on 5-15-1998 by winning a decision over Noe Hernandez. Around this time he began to train in Brazilian Ju-Jitsu with John Lewis of the J-Sect Brazilian Ju-Jitsu Academy in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Based upon his performance in mixed martial arts, Liddell was named 'No Holds Barred Co-Competitor of the Year' for 2001 by Black Belt Magazine, an award he shared with UFC Champion Tito Ortiz, whom he later defeated in UFC 47.

The Iceman owns and manages San Luis Obispo (SLO) Kickboxing School with his partner, Scott Adams. Both John Hackelman and John Lewis remain Chuck Liddell's principal corner men.

Liddell the Fighter

Striking - Chuck Liddell is considered one of the best punchers currently competing in MMA fighting. The champion kickboxer possesses lethal punches, kicks, and knees. The Iceman's punch is like an explosion; his potent looping right can end a match simply and quickly.

Liddell's hitting, namely his straight right, is his greatest strength and a key to his wins.

Grappling - Though he is principally a striker, Liddell has a solid background as a wrestler. He is good at maneuvering on the ground against fine grapplers and has a great sprawl that many top-notch wrestlers have struggled against. Liddell also holds an uncanny genius for getting back to his feet when taken down.

Submission - Like his wrestling, Liddell has performed some submission training and centers on the leg lock when he can't knock out his opponent. Not too long ago The Iceman earned a Purple Belt in Ju-Jitsu. Though he is able, Liddell seldom tries to submit or even shoot in on an opponent.

Fight Training - Chuck ideally begins to train for his bouts eight weeks prior to their scheduled date. A typical week of fight training includes the following exercises over a six-day period:

1.) Striking: Chuck works on striking with punches, knees, kicks, and elbows four times a week;

2.) Wrestling: Liddell wrestles 3 times a week;

3.) Takedowns: He works solely on "takedowns" twice a week;

4.) Conditioning/Cardio: Chuck conditions five times a week by either jogging, running sprints, running hills, stairs, or sand dunes, or swimming;

5.) Strength Training: Liddell performs a high-repetition weight workout three times per week;

6.) Ju-Jitsu: Chuck also trains in Brazilian Ju-Jitsu three times every week.

Strengths - Liddell's obvious strength is his striking ability, though he is indeed a well rounded fighter. He can do it all rather well.

Weaknesses - Liddell has proven to be a stereotypical puncher; he is quite lethal early in the fight if he can remain on offense. The "Iceman" has a tendency to melt as the fight advances, and finds it difficult to put opponents away if the fight goes long.

Liddell has a very good homepage (, which is excellent stuff for the Liddell fanatic. There you will find a number of interviews that give you a firm idea of Liddell's training techniques. In one interview he is asked how he prepares himself in the dressing room shortly before a major bout. In his straightforward, no-nonsense manner, Liddell replies:

"I like to do about a 30 minute workout. Kicking thai pads, hitting the mitts and maybe some wrestling. Then I listen to my music and relax. Then, I may do some more stuff to stay sharp and to get warmed up. I usually try to do a 10-15 minute jog on the morning of the fight. If I don't, my body won't wake up."

And what's he listen to for pre-fight music?

"I listen to a lot of country music," replies Chuck. "I listen to some punk, too."

There is also a very interesting interview posted on The Iceman's website from MMA Weekly, written by Ryan Bennett. It is especially engaging because Bennett's interview is surely one of the last in-depth conversations The Iceman is giving before his April 16th match, giving us a fine glimpse into Liddell's thinking just days before the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship bout with Randy Couture.

It's rare fans are given such a golden opportunity to peer into the thoughts and bearing of a major fighter this close to a championship match, at least beyond the standard hackneyed, "How do you think you'll do against the champ?" questions. Here's just a few clips:

MMA: Congratulations...I heard you got your purple belt in Ju-Jitsu.

Chuck: Yeah, I've been training with John Lewis for a long time, and it was cool to get this purple belt...

MMA: What was the reasoning behind the decision to train with John Lewis for a while instead of John Hackelman?

Chuck: Well, I'm still training with John Hackelman, too. I've always trained with those two guys. It has been a while since I have come out here (to Las Vegas) to work on my ground game with John Lewis, but I planned on doing it after the fight with Randy. Originally, I didn't plan on having another fight until November, but I just kept my plans and came out here to train even after signing to fight in August...

MMA: How does it affect you mentally going into this fight since you're coming off of a loss?

Chuck: Not much, because I still think that I can beat any 205-pound fighter in the world on any given night. So that part of it doesn't bother me; I'm ready to go.

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