Chuck Liddell, the Ultimate Fighting Championship's most well-known star, has been pulled off the June 7 main event at the O2 Arena in London due to a partial hamstring tear suffered in training on April 11.
The UFC made the official announcement Monday after Liddell told company president Dana White about the severity of his injury. Liddell had continued light training over the past week in hopes he could salvage his pay-per-view main event fight with Rashad Evans.
It was the first time in Liddell's 10-year career that he has canceled a fight, which has included fighting Tito Ortiz twice with a torn MCL, and fighting Quinton Jackson in Japan with a torn quadriceps.
Liddell said the injury, which won't require surgery, took place while doing light training, and he heard the muscle pop. He was hoping it wasn't serious but trainer John Hackelman immediately thought he had hurt it pretty bad as the entire muscle became discolored.
"I hyperextended it," Liddell said. "I probably didn't warm up enough, or it was a freak injury.
"I think I can fight by August," said Liddell, who will need four to six weeks to rehab before he can begin hard training.
"Unfortunately, Chuck Liddell tore his right hamstring during training last week, and being the warrior that he is, he still wanted to fight, which is the reason everyone in the world loves him," said White in a release. "But I wouldn't let anyone fight with his leg looking that way. Let him heal and come back and fight when he is 100 percent."
Liddell said he was lucky that the partial tear was in the belly of the muscle and not the insertion, so it should heal faster.
After the injury, he continued to train his upper body and was swimming without much stress on his legs, while doctors advised him against fighting.
"I can't walk without a limp," he said, but noted the pain is manageable, and in recent days has been able to ride the bike, but not at a fast pace, and has started throwing light kicks in the swimming pool as well as doing bodyweight squats. But he can't push off or do any kind of normal fight training.
UFC is attempting to both get a replacement to face the undefeated Evans, 16-0-1, as well as add a couple of matches to the show to make up for Liddell not appearing. They are going to schedule 13 matches instead of 11 as originally planned. James "Sandman" Irvin, who tied a UFC record with an eight second knockout of Houston Alexander on April 2 in Broomfield, Colo., is among those under consideration.
Brandon Vera vs. Fabricio Werdum in a heavyweight match was the scheduled No. 2 match on the show.
The O2 Arena in London, which holds 16,200 fans for a UFC setup, was a few hundred tickets shy of sold out as of Monday according to UFC officials, who noted that even with higher ticket prices, sales were ahead of the pace of the debut show on Sept. 8 headlined by the Quinton Jackson vs. Dan Henderson UFC vs. Pride title unification match.
Liddell said he had never told White in advance about any injuries, but felt he had to tell him about this one. White, likely figuring if Liddell called to tell him about it that it had to be serious, told Liddell it wasn't a smart move to take the fight with the injury, which could worsen in training or fighting and threaten his career longevity.