So he says.
But whether Liddell is willing to admit it or not, how he performs against
That conversation seems to have had little impact on Liddell, who downplays his boss' assertion that this is a do-or-die fight.
"I don't really care about that stuff," he said in a phone interview last week. "I probably wouldn't even know he said that if you guys didn't tell me."
Those who saw his knockout loss to
"Where were these people when I beat
Regardless of what Liddell's loss to Evans meant to the state of his career, Liddell's longtime trainer,
In Rua, Liddell faces an opponent who is also at a career crossroads. Despite his accomplishments in Pride, which include winning the 2005 Grand Prix as a light heavyweight and becoming one of the world's top ranked 205-pound fighters before jumping to the UFC, the last two years of his career have been riddled with injuries and unfulfilled potential.
He was clearly not his old self in his UFC debut loss to
"I'm expecting him to be in good shape," said Liddell. "I'm expecting the old Shogun, where he's explosive and hits hard. All I know is that if he doesn't show up in shape he's in big trouble. He's going to take a serious beating if he isn't in shape against me."
But you almost have to wonder whether anything less than a serious beating, complete with a definitive ending, will be enough to justify Liddell's continued presence in the UFC. As an ex-champion closing in on his 40s, Liddell said he is acutely aware of the stereotype he doesn't want to become: the fighter who stays in the game too long for his own good.
"I don't want to be that guy," he said. "No one does. But I've always said that I'll make the decision to retire in the gym, not in the cage after a fight. My body still works. I'm healthy. I fight for a living and I love my job. Why would I want to give that up if I don't have to?"