Cagewriter - Mixed Martial Arts

The UFC's first big press function for UFC 88 went down on Thursday with a Rashad Evans-Chuck Liddell teleconference. Evans was relaxed and sounded confident while Liddell was chatty and loose as always.

The fight presents an odd scenario where the undefeated fighter, Evans (11-0-1), is the big underdog lacking the star power of his opponent, Liddell. But it's not the first time Evans has stepped in there with one of mixed martial arts' biggest stars. Evans (pictured on the right with some fat guy) fought to a draw at UFC 73 against Tito Ortiz. But Evans said the sport has grown so much and Liddell is at a different level in terms of stardom.

"Chuck is probably the most popular fighter in the UFC. I went to see a movie (Pineapple Express) the other day to relax and clear my head for fight and I see Chuck on the screen. You can't escape him anywhere. He's really popular."

Liddell has a fight scene with MMA veteran Vernon White in the movie.

"I'm trying to get away and think about something else, and Chuck's beating up this black dude. I'm like damn."


Looking back at old Evans' fights, Liddell said that he appeared nervous in his fight against Ortiz. 'The Iceman' said it took Evans about a round and a half to get into the fight.

Evans claimed that he's a different now with that bout under his belt:

"I learned to handle the pressure a little bit more. I learned to relax. You overthink things and work yourself into a frenzy. As my coach Greg Jackson says, it's just a (expletive) workout. You make it more than it is and you can barely brush your teeth because you're gagging."

This teleconference was a little shorter than normal. It was going head-to-head against an Oscar De La Hoya presser to announce the Dec. 6 fight against Manny Pacquiao. Several of the fight writers who pull double-duty covering MMA and boxing chose to be on the boxing call.

Liddell was typical Liddell. He was very conversational which is interesting because some Phoenix radio listeners said that a show on The Deuce basically hung up on Liddell after three minutes on Wednesday. Roc and Manuch pounded Liddell once he was off the air saying that he sounded disinterested.

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