The Iceman will stick to his plan

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LAS VEGAS – The late nights in the country's trendiest hot spots were never an issue when he pummeled Tito Ortiz.

The paunch around the midsection was ignored when he iced Renato Sobral.

The string of celebrity girlfriends was passed off as Chuck being Chuck when he knocked out Randy Couture.


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But after back-to-back losses, all of a sudden Chuck Liddell's life is being torn apart by those who barely know him.

Even his close friend, UFC president Dana White, chided him about his ways when they met at UFC 70 in Manchester, England, in April, only about a month before Liddell lost his title to Quinton Jackson.

Liddell, who fights perhaps the most anticipated bout of his career Saturday at UFC 79 when he takes on long-time rival Wanderlei Silva at the Mandalay Bay Events Center, is never one to get too upset.

And so Liddell is more bemused than angry at the flood of suggestions that he's too old or under-motivated or too much of a night owl to be a world-class mixed martial artist any more.

"It's kind of funny," Liddell says of all the attention his partying ways have generated in light of back-to-back losses for the first time in his career. "When I was winning, everything I was doing was OK. But when I lost, they want to act like it was the reason I lost."

Liddell spent Christmas at White's Las Vegas home. White said Wednesday that he's gained 11 pounds in eight days "from eating like a pig," but said he was amazed by Liddell's discipline.

Liddell weighed 212 on Tuesday, just seven pounds over the 205-pound light heavyweight limit, White said. Most significantly, White said Liddell looked terrific and seemed in his best frame of mind in quite a while.

White had difficulty putting a finger on what the difference was other than saying he saw "the old Chuck again."

"I don't think he's been the old Chuck for a while," White said. "There's a lot of pressure on him, obviously a lot more money. This guy is a huge celebrity now. He's an A-lister. Believe me when I tell you that. He hangs out with NFL guys and rock stars and those kinds of people now.

"That's kind of been coming and coming. But it's different now. He was at my house and I saw what I wanted to see. I saw a guy who is there now, who is mentally focused, who is really ready for the big fight. He's cleaned up his life. He's focused like the old Chuck."

But to blame Liddell's losses to Jackson at UFC 71 and Keith Jardine at UFC 76 on this is not only taking credit away from those men but also demeans Liddell.

Hanging out in nightclubs and cozying up with Playboy models is not the typical way to prepare for a fight, but it's always worked for Liddell.

Until it didn't.

Liddell lost to Jackson because A. Jackson is a world-class fighter and B. Liddell made an elementary mistake, one that trainer John Hackleman chides him repeatedly in the gym for making.

Liddell threw a left hook to the body from the outside, just as Jackson was coming with a straight right. Jackson's right ended the fight.

"John's constantly talking to me about that," Liddell said. "It's a mistake I've made and it's something I have to remember. It had nothing to do with that other stuff."

Liddell was vague about what went wrong against Jardine. Though Jardine fought the fight of his life, few gave him much of a chance to win going in, but Liddell didn't fight with the kind of fire he usually does.

Liddell simply attributes the loss to Jardine as a bad night.

"I didn't perform, but when you're around for a long time, no matter how good you are, you're going to have those kinds of nights," Liddell said. "It could have been a few things, but hopefully I've changed those. I think there's a little more intensity back in the room."

Former welterweight champion Matt Hughes, who meets Georges St. Pierre in the main event Saturday for the interim 170-pound title, offered Liddell a public show of support during a conference call last week.

Hughes attributed the back-to-back losses to facing quality opposition and said he doesn't see Liddell being on the downside.

He said he expects a big effort from Liddell against Silva.

"There was a time when I had two losses in a row," Hughes said. "One was in the UFC and one was to Jose Pele Landi-Jons. I was about to retire, (but I) ended up winning the world title and defending it nine times in a row. People don't understand if you haven't lost two fights in your career, then you haven't fought the right people, to be honest. It's just unfortunate for Chuck that they were two losses in a row."

The losses are hardly proof that Liddell's been partying too hard or that he's over the hill. They're just proof that he didn't win his last two fights.

In typical Liddell fashion, he says he rarely thinks of the last two fights unless someone mentions one – or both – of them to him.

"You have to understand, it's part of this business when you're winning for everybody to pat you on the back and tell you you're the greatest when you're winning and it's also part of the business that those same people are pointing fighters and asking questions when you're losing," Liddell said. "I'm the same guy I've always been. I'm excited about this fight, because I've wanted this fight for a long time, but I haven't made fundamental changes in what I do just because of the last two (fights)."