Prior to UFC 100, SI.com had the chance to speak with many of the promotion's elite fighters -- past and present. Here's what Chuck Liddell had to say about Saturday's card, his career in the cage and much more.
Back in the day, if you had told me we'd definitely make it to UFC 100, I'd be very excited.
It's a big milestone for the UFC. There was a time when it looked we wouldn't make it.
To me, it's just a number. I think they're making a big deal about it. They put a lot of good fights together and it should be a great card. There's a lot of stuff around it. I'm glad we made it.
The sport has evolved a lot. Obviously, technically, definitely. The rules. They pay. Everything. I don't think there are too many things that are the same. There's still two guys fighting, but there have been many changes. Originally, it was two guys putting styles against one another. Now it's mixed martial arts.
JohnHackleman (Liddell's trainer) is working with Thiago for this fight, so I'm kind of pulling for Thiago. But I'm friends with St. Pierre, so it's kind of hard. I like Thiago, he's a good guy. It's tough.
I think the most important card was The Ultimate Fighter finale, and the fact it was the first live free fights on TV. Those guys put on such a great show. You gotta have all the pieces in place. First live fights on TV and those guys went out and had that war.
But then again, as far as significance of a number and the milestone, UFC 100 is up there.
It's completely different how people have accepted MMA and looked at it. You very rarely get the, 'Hey do you guys train at all?' questions. People accept us as athletes and as a sport now -- for the most part.
The Fertittas were $40 million in the hole before they started making money. They took all that risk and nobody was there then. I don't blame them for trying to defend the market they created. I think the fighters can get a lot of credit too. The guys who fought and put on the shows and risked their bodies.
You gotta watch the people around you, especially the new people around you. For fighters, at least, keep an eye on the new people around you. A lot of guys with a fighting background or wrestling background were too trusting because they never had anything worth taking. You trust people like you used to, and they take you.
You gotta be careful man. There's a lot of snakes out there.
The moment in my career that really stands out for me is when I first got the title against Randy Couture. I was avenging a loss against a great fighter. It was a knockout victory in front of the biggest crowd we had to that point, as far as pay-per-view, at least for sure.
Bill Wallace, I used to watch him when I was starting out. Maurice Smith, I'd tell him I watched him when I was a kid and he used to get so pissed. PeteCunningham. A lot of times I like guys that fought a way I can't. Pete was pretty -- bam, bam bam bam. That's never been me. I was always a brawler. I'm always impressed by guys that are little more finesse.
I enjoy everything about fighting. It's a great job for me. I do what I love for a living and get paid for it -- get paid well for it now.
There have been times when I didn't enjoy the business side of it. Things get screwed up. There were a lot of growing pains for fighters because we grew so fast. A lot of us didn't know how to handle how fast the sport grew. I think we learned a lot of our lessons through trial and error and messing up here and there.
My grandma was a little hard on my job. My grandpa died when I was kickboxing and my grandma died before I started doing MMA. But she always felt like I had an accounting degree, I should get a real job. She was fine with it. But she wanted to brag that I was an accountant to her friends.
The most overrated fighter? I'd say it, but I want to leave some respect there for what he did for the sport in bringing it to us, getting it started in the beginning.
I'd love to see Fedor in the UFC, just 'cause. It would answer a lot of questions.