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CSAC’s Foster ‘surprised’ Tito Ortiz knocked out Chuck Liddell, thought it’d be more competitive

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Chuck Liddell vs. Tito Ortiz 3 was less competitive than Andy Foster thought it would be.

The California State Athletic Commission (CSAC) executive director said Monday he was “a little surprised” Ortiz knocked Liddell out in the trilogy. In fact, Foster expected Ortiz to look for takedowns in the bout, which took place at Los Angeles’ The Forum on Saturday.

“It’s fair to say they slowed down,” Foster told Bloody Elbow. “I think it’s fair to say — without being disrespectful, because I respect [Liddell] in the highest regards — that [Liddell] slowed down from his past fights.”

CSAC oversaw and sanctioned the Liddell vs. Ortiz 3 event, which was promoted by Oscar De La Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions. Foster said the commission followed the Association of Ringside Physicians’ medical-testing plan for fighters 40 years old and older, which includes MRA and MRI testing of the brain, an EKG, cardiac testing, formal neurocognitive testing, blood work, and an eye exam. Liddell and Ortiz were both, of course, cleared to fight.

Before the fight, Ortiz had stayed relatively active over the years, last defeating Chael Sonnen in January 2017. He was 3-1 in his last four appearances. Liddell, on the other hand, hadn’t fought since 2010, and was riding a three-fight skid; all three losses were knockouts.

Liddell and Ortiz fought twice before in 2004 and 2006. Liddell won both fights by knockout.

Foster said he cleared Liddell to fight because the former UFC light heavyweight champion passed all the tests and Foster didn’t think the Ortiz fight was a mismatch. Foster said a lot of people didn’t view the trilogy as a mismatch early on in the buildup and had “confidence” in Liddell.

“You have a 48-year-old versus a 43-year-old, they’ve fought twice before, the 48-year-old has two definitive wins against the 43-year-old,” Foster said. “Take the names out, if you put that information out there and they’ve been medically [cleared], I think it’s tough to say, ‘You know what, we’re not gonna let you make a living, because I think this is a mismatch. Even know you’ve beat him twice before, I think this is a mismatch.’

“I just didn’t think it was a mismatch, and I certainly didn’t think it was a mismatch to the point that I wasn’t gonna let somebody make a living.”

If Foster hadn’t given Liddell and Ortiz the green light, the fight would have happened elsewhere, Foster said.

“If I had denied it, I think the fight was gonna happen somewhere,” he said. “California’s the safest place to do it in. I had Herb Dean — my best referee, the world’s best referee — in there, we put them through an incredible amount of medical tests to hold it.”

Foster said it’s “difficult” to tell a fighter that they can’t fight despite being medically cleared.

“It’s the fight game. One of the ways to win is a knockout. Chuck got knocked out,” Foster said.

“There comes a time when maybe there’s other ways that you can contribute to the sport. That’s a decision Mr. Liddell will have to make.”

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