It won’t be Tito Ortiz, Rashad Evans, Wanderlei Silva, or Randy Couture in front of him, but on Monday, September 21st, when UFC Hall of Famer Chuck Liddell makes his debut on ABC’s “Dancing With The Stars”, the stage may have changed, but the intent hasn’t.
“I want to win,” Liddell told UFC.com. “I don’t like losing in anything, so I’ll work as hard as they’ll let me.”
“The Iceman” will join 15 other celebrities on the hit series, in the process becoming the first mixed martial artist to compete on DWTS. But Liddell, the sport’s first true crossover star, is comfortable with being an ambassador for MMA, and looking forward to having some fun in the process.
“I’m gonna go out, be myself, and show what kind of people we do have in this sport,” he said. “I’m sure the reaction will be mixed (among fight fans). My friends are gonna be excited and I’ll never hear the end of it because they’ll make fun of me, but it should be fun and I think everyone will like it.”
Liddell, 39, is no stranger to “Dancing With The Stars”, having appeared on the third season to support friend Willa Ford during her stint on the show, but despite there being talk of him competing over the years, the timing never worked out until now.
“They asked a couple different times, but it would be too much time to take off from training for fights,” said Liddell. “Now I don’t have any fights coming up and I’m not training, so it’s something to do.”
That’s not to say Liddell has been sitting on the couch since his April bout against Mauricio Rua. He recently competed in a golf tournament which let him know that preparing for activities other than fighting will push his body in different directions than it’s used to going in.
“It’s working different muscles that maybe I haven’t used before,” said Liddell. “I did a golf tournament where I had to play 18 holes four days in a row and I hadn’t played that many rounds of golf in my whole life. So I was sore – my back hurt, my ribs were tight.”
And that’s just a taste of what he’ll be going through to prepare for his dancing debut and what he hopes will be a weekly return to the ABC stage. He’s already been gearing up for his Monday meeting with his dance partner and the initial training stages as he gets ready to become the latest in the line of sports greats who have competed on the show, including NFL legends Emmitt Smith and Jerry Rice, Basketball Hall of Famer Clyde Drexler, Olympians Apolo Anton Ohno, Shawn Johnson, and Maurice Greene, and former boxing champions Evander Holyfield and Laila Ali.
“There’s a month up to when the show starts when I’m practicing, and I’ve been trying to get in a little bit of shape before I meet my partner,” said Liddell, who may have an edge over his competitors thanks to the footwork that has led him to 21 pro MMA victories, a light heavyweight world championship, and a spot in the UFC Hall of Fame. He’s not so sure though.
“I don’t know who else is gonna be on there, so I don’t know how much of an edge that gives me or how that’s gonna translate, but I haven’t tried it yet, so we’ll see,” said Liddell, who has no formal dance training. “When I talked to them after I agreed to do it, they said if you don’t have any background in dancing, just learn it when you get here. Don’t confuse yourself by starting with somebody and then having to come over and re-learn it.”
So it’s safe to say there aren’t any secret Chuck Liddell dance videos out there?
“No,” he said. “There might be some goofy ones with me out dancing places. (Laughs) I like to dance, but I don’t know how to dance.”
Liddell has a little over a month to learn, and fight fans know that if you give “The Iceman” a solid training camp, good things usually follow. He’s eager to find out if the same applies to “Dancing With The Stars”.
“It’s work time, so it should be interesting,” he said. “I’m a little nervous, but I’m excited to get started and see where I’m at.”
“Dancing With The Stars” premieres on Monday, September 21st at 8pm.