Even for someone without a serious leg injury, a 10-hour trans-Atlantic flight is uncomfortable. For a guy with a significantly torn right hamstring, being holed up in a plane for that long is the equivalent of torture.
But Chuck Liddell is making that trip with that kind of leg, because the former UFC light heavyweight champion feels he owes it to the British mixed martial arts fans to make an appearance at UFC 85 in London's O2 Arena on Saturday.
At one time, UFC 85 was looking as if it might be one of the cards of the year. With a main event of Liddell against Mauricio "Shogun" Rua, it almost didn't matter who was on the rest of the card.
But this has been one of the most star-crossed cards in the sport's history. First, Rua had to pull out with a leg injury. Liddell was then supposed to face Rashad Evans in the main event.
Liddell then had to withdraw himself when he tore his right hamstring during a wrestling drill while training.
But he decided to make the trip because he didn't want to create the impression among British fans he didn't want to fight in the U.K.
"I had a vacation planned after this fight anyway, and so it worked out great for me," Liddell said. "I didn't want people to think I didn't want to fight over there. It's not like I faked an injury or anything to get out of it.
"You know how much I love to fight. If I could fight, I would be fighting. And I don't care where. But by going over, I can at least let the fans know I appreciate them and the way they support this sport."
That attitude is almost nonexistent among athletes in other sports and it is one of the primary reasons why the sport is rapidly gaining in popularity.
The fans have access to the major stars in the sport unlike in any other. No star is bigger in MMA than Liddell, who remains as normal and down to earth as he was the day he started.
Liddell's long-time rival, Tito Ortiz, recently fought the last bout on his UFC contract and said he won't return. Ortiz said he's going to sign elsewhere to take a stand on behalf of other fighters in order to protest low pay and oppressive working conditions.
"The Iceman," though, scoffed at Ortiz's argument that he was worried about his fellow fighters.
"I know Tito for a long time and I probably know him as well as anyone and I can guarantee you this: If Tito is doing something, he's not doing it for anyone else; he's doing it for himself," Liddell said. "Tito wants what he can get for himself. That's all he's worried about. He doesn't care about anyone else, as long as he gets his."
Though Ortiz left the UFC because of a dispute with UFC president Dana White and heavyweight champion Randy Couture is in the midst of a lawsuit with the company, Liddell said he doesn't sense any feeling of widespread unhappiness among the company's fighters.
He said it became a lucrative business for him in May 2001, when he fought Kevin Randleman and Guy Mezger and earned $60,000.
"That's a lot of money, and it's only gotten better," Liddell said.
But Liddell is hardly the type who fights for money. He's a gunslinger who was just as happy when he was fighting for $1,000 a bout as he is now when he's making millions.
He said he expects to be ready to fight by the fall and is eager to get into the cage with another big name like Rua, Wanderlei Silva or light heavyweight champion Quinton "Rampage" Jackson.
Jackson has beaten Liddell twice and lifted the UFC light heavyweight title from him at UFC 71 last year with a dramatic first-round technical knockout.
Liddell lost again later in the year to Keith Jardine via split decision before rebounding to defeat Silva at UFC 79 in December. The Liddell-Silva fight was a stirring toe-to-toe battle that enhanced the reputation of both the winner and the loser.
No doubt, though, that Liddell's reputation will be enhanced in the U.K., at least, when he makes the nearly 6,000-mile trek from his home in California to sit at a fight card he's not competing on.
To Liddell, it's no big thing. But to White, one of Liddell's closest friends and biggest boosters, it's one of the many reasons why he's as close to a mainstream star as there is in MMA today.
"Chuck doesn't big-time anybody," White said. "If anybody in the UFC had the stature to big-time someone, it would be Chuck. But he's a guy who understands that the fans are what make this sport and they're the ones who are helping it grow and he appreciates them for that. Chuck is one of the guys who definitely gets it. He has everything in the proper perspective."