UFC 47: When The UFC Created The Super Fight

On this day in 2004, Chuck Liddell defeated Tito Ortiz for the first time
10:00, 02 Apr 2022

The early 2000s were an exciting place to be for the Ultimate Fighting Championship. After the dark ages of the 1990s, where late-Senator John McCain led a campaign to ban the UFC from all 50 states. Its reputation was an extremely violent sport that was labelled as ‘human cockfighting’, despite its best attempts at changing the rules and making sure that this was viewed as a sport, not a spectacle. 

By the time the year of the millennium rolled around, the pay-per-view experts at Semaphore Entertainment Group, which helped produce the shows, was close to bankruptcy. Dana White then made his approach alongside executives that would create Zuffa, the entity that now owns the UFC, purchasing the organisation for $2M in what now seems like an absolute bargain.

UFC 40 is credited to be the most critical event in the Zuffa era, thanks to its sellout out of Las Vegas’s MGM Grand as well as 150,000 pay-per-view buys, however UFC 47 will go down in history when the sport had its first ‘Super Fight.’

Just seeing some of the names on the card of the fight is enough to feel nostalgic. Headlining was Chuck Liddell vs Tito Ortiz, a fight that fans had been waiting for for over a year, with arguments of a pact made between the two fighters when they were friends and training partners that they would never fight. Liddell rubbished the claims of a pact, saying that he would fight anyone anywhere, a common phrase from fighters in any combat sport, before accusing Tito of ducking the fight. 

Elsewhere on the card was the first fight between Nick Diaz and Robbie Lawler, two UFC legends in their own rights with very different career paths, the former becoming a fan favourite and the latter becoming the UFC Welterweight Champion. The pair even came back to rematch last year in a fight that was for the fans' pleasure and financial benefits more than anything else. 

Future heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovski was going to face future champion Tim Sylvia, until The Maine-iac had to pull out due to injury. Instead he defeated Wesley ‘Cabbage’ Correira, a veteran fighter who unfortunately never returned to the organisation after the loss. 

The main event however paved the way for future pay-per-views. Tito Ortiz’ career has already been acknowledged by the UFC by adding him to their Hall of Fame as a pioneer of the sport. Until Randy Couture knocked him off his light-heavyweight perch, he was the king of the division, and he had a point to prove against a stern foe in Chuck Liddell. 

The Iceman was the first UFC fighter to fight in the Pride organisation in Japan. He was returning to the organisation after defeating Alistair Overeem and losing out to the future Mr. T, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson. He also had a point to prove as the former number one contender of the Light Heavyweight division, that he could return from the East and defeat the former champion.

The fight ended in the second round, with the first round being a feeling-out process and Tito Ortiz slapping his head to goad Liddell. After “Big” John McCarthy was thrown out of the way and the confrontation continued into the break between the rounds, Liddell managed to drop Ortiz and claim a TKO victory, despite Tito’s protests about an eye poke beforehand. 

The bad blood continued from there, with the pair meeting again over two years later at UFC 66, with Liddell winning again in another instant classic. It was even brought back as a fight under Oscar De La Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions event in 2018, with Ortiz finally getting a win over his nemesis. 

Unfortunately we never got a finale of Season 11’s The Ultimate Fighter, with Ortiz pulling out of the fight and being replaced by Rich Franklin, where Liddell was knocked unconscious at the end of the first round, which unfortunately ended a tremendous and iconic career. Ortiz meanwhile hasn’t fought since 2019, after going on a tour of defeating former UFC stars in Bellator and other promotions. 

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