Former UFC light heavyweight champion Chuck Liddell (20-4 MMA, 14-3 UFC) and Keith Jardine (12-3-1 MMA, 4-2 UFC) are expected to headline Anaheim’s UFC 76 event in September. A source close to one of the fighters told UFCjunkie.com (www.ufcjunkie.com
) of a tentative agreement that was reached earlier today.
Jardine will take the spot vacated by PRIDE standout Wanderlei Silva. Earlier this week, UFC president Dana White said that Silva turned down the UFC 76 fight with Liddell despite having a verbal agreement in place. UFCjunkie.com first broke the news of that agreement, but for reasons still unknown, Silva apparently opted not to take the fight.
Instead, Liddell will face Jardine, a cast member from The Ultimate Fighter 2 who worked his way into title contention before suffering a shocking, 48-second upset to UFC newcomer Houston Alexander back in May. Prior to that UFC 71 loss, Jardine had posted a 4-1 record in the UFC — with his only loss coming via a controversial unanimous decision to Stephan Bonnar at UFC Fight Night 4.
The loss to Alexander erased all the momentum the 31-year-old had gained after his dominating first-round TKO victory over Forrest Griffin at UFC 66. It was the biggest win of Jardine’s career. But the Team Jackson fighter now has an opportunity for an even bigger one.
Liddell, who had held the UFCâ€™s light heavyweight title since April 2005, suffered a first-round technical knockout to Quinton Jackson at UFC 71. The May 26 loss was the 37-year-old’s first defeat in eight fights.
The future UFC Hall of Famer’s upcoming fight with Jardine will be his seventh consecutive main-event fight.
The fight with Jardine — “Plan B,” if you will — may be a letdown for many hardcore MMA fans. After all, the proposed Liddell-Silva bout had been one of the most-anticipated fights in the sport’s history. The UFC, and specifically White, had tried to arrange the matchup for years but experienced one snafu after another. During a UFC 61 event in July 2006, White event went as far as announcing the fight was going to happen — only to later blame the then-owners of PRIDE for keeping it from happening.
Liddell and Jardine are expected to officially sign a deal for the fight soon.
UFC 76 takes place at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif., on Sept. 22. UFCjunkie.com has learned that a fight between 170-pound contenders Diego Sanchez and Jon Fitch (a fight UFCjunkie.com exclusively announced last weekend) likely will be billed as the night’s co-main event.