Tommy Morrison Speaks Out on UFC: “Chuck Liddell Shouldn’t Have Done That!”
INTERVIEW By Sean Newman (May 23, 2007) Doghouse Boxing
Tommy “The Duke” Morrison wants to put all doubts to rest, not only about the status of his health, but also his remaining capability as a fighter. He has made himself the most recent boxer to announce his entrance to the arena of mixed martial arts, and you may have read of his response to the challenge made by Chuck Liddell on a morning television show, where it appeared that Liddell could nod off at any moment. Liddell would later explain that he was on cold medicine and was trying to make a joke. If the internet blogs are any indication, this “joke” is anything but. As Morrison himself says, people are taking this seriously. And if you’re a fan of MMA, you will want to read on.

In February, Morrison returned to the ring after an 11 year layoff due to an HIV positive test in Las Vegas. We all know the story, so there is no need to tell you what you already know. If you don’t know, do some research. In Chester, West Virginia, John Castle was the opponent and Morrison, from ringside accounts, struggled mightily with Castle’s punches and fatigue after only a round. Morrison has an explanation for that.

“If you can imagine not playing golf in 11 years and getting back on the course, it’s about the same,” Morrison says. “I had to go through all the motions again. You have to get conditioned to get hit, and I wanted to go out there and get tagged a few times, and I did. People tore that apart a little bit, they were like ‘well, his defense isn’t there.’ But they didn’t understand the psyche behind my approach to the fight. I went out and got hit a couple of times and moved around. I got hit in the ribs right off the bat, in the first 30 or 45 seconds, and re-broke a rib. There was a picture taken between the first and second round where it looked like I was exhausted, but I couldn’t take a full breath because my rib was broken. I calmed down in the second round, stayed low, and he threw a right and I slipped under it and came up with the left hook and that was it. A whole lot of the same (as when I fought before). I’ve been working on a right hand and I probably hit harder with the right hand now than I do with the left. That will elevate me. Any time you become a two handed fighter you become more effective. If people have to worry about my right hand, that will open up the left.”

I can back Morrison up on the story of a broken rib. Even if his rib was only cracked, it is a painful experience and makes it difficult to take a breath. Several years ago, my old man fell out of a pecan tree and completely broke two ribs. Not only could he not catch a breath, he also couldn’t move due to the pain. So I can only imagine what it would be like to fight with even a fractured rib, and don’t forget, Morrison is a fighter who battled through a broken hand, broken jaw, and serious cut against Joe Hipp, and several other injuries throughout his life.

As for the rib and any potential future problems, Morrison states that “It wasn’t a hard punch that did it, I flipped my Explorer about two and a half years ago in Tennessee and broke a couple of ribs. I didn’t bind it because I didn’t see myself fighting in the near future then. It would have been fine. I bound it this time and it’s healed a lot better and doesn’t give me any problems. It does a little when I run, but it will pass.”

“Not being in the ring for 11 years was part of it, and part of it was making that walk again,” Morrison says of the rust and nerves involved in his first fight back. “It had been a long time. Bottom line is that when the bell rang, it all came back. The first round wasn’t too impressive, I just moved around a little bit, got tagged a little bit, had to find my range, and when I found my range it was over.

I was never hurt. He hit me, and knocked me backwards, but any time someone gets hit they think you’re hurt. I was never in any danger. I wanted to get hit a couple of times just to get a feel for it again. You have to get conditioned to do that and I didn’t have a whole helluva lot of sparring. I only sparred about two and a half weeks before the fight. My trainer doesn’t like me sparring a whole lot. That’s all I used to do was spar, 8 to 10 rounds a night, now we’ll spar 3, sometimes 4 rounds only a couple of weeks before the fight. I don’t particularly like that. I like to spar a little bit more than that and incorporate some drill sparring into that. You have days where you work on certain things, be it the jab, the left hook, body shots, or whatever. You can concentrate on doing specific things without paying the price for it. Everything works different for different people, and it’s up to the trainer to find out what’s the right combination for his fighter. That’s what a good trainer can do. A lot of times I’ve found myself training myself, there’s no one giving me any feedback. I’m going through mitt work and all that, but on the flip side of that coin, my trainer Jerry Cheatham and I have only been together for about two months and Virg (Tom Virgets) and I were together for ten years.”

Morrison, who says he will soon be moving from Arizona to Los Angeles (and doesn’t foresee a problem in finding an alternate trainer), also explains exactly what happened when his scheduled bout for April 27 in Houston fell apart at the last hour.

“What was reported is exactly what happened,” Morrison says. “They knew I was going to take a blood test even though they said I didn’t have to take a blood test. (The state commissions) always get political pressure and end up making me take it anyway, which we were expecting. I had taken my own blood test three or four days we went down there just so in case we took theirs and they said I failed that one we could say ‘well, wait a minute we just passed one three days ago, so what’s up?’ We have to watch our back like that all the time, because the powers that be do not want me in this sport.”

Asked if he thought people were looking too hard for things to take him to task on, inside or outside the ring, Morrison responds:

“Unfortunately, that’s the type of society we live in these days, particularly when it comes to the media. They always want to try and pick things apart. I don’t understand why people can’t get behind something that’s such a positive story. There are still a lot of question marks about what went on in Houston, but that was their fault. There’s a test, it’s called a PCR test, and it takes eight days to do. You can pay ten times more money but you still can’t produce it any faster. They thought they could extradite it by spending extra money, and they brought me in five and a half days before the fight. Since it takes eight days to get the result, and it wasn’t back yet so they couldn’t let me fight without being cleared. That’s what happened. It wasn’t my fault. There was political bullshit going on. The Manny Pacquiao fight was just before that and some of the officials down there got into it with Bruce Trampler (matchmaker for Top Rank), so they cockblocked me in order to get back at him. That’s one of the rumors flying around. Bottom line is, I’m going to keep passing the tests and they’ll have to let me fight, or they’ll set themselves up to be brought to court and lose a lot of money. I’m going to send a message. Once I take another test in Vegas, I’m going to put out a statement that anyone who stands in my way, I’ll see you in court. That’ll shut this (stuff) down.”

Morrison now has a fight scheduled in Arizona for June 9, where he will enter the “cage” for the first time. He has no training in mixed martial arts, but this fight will not exactly be MMA, he says. Morrison calls it “stand up striking,” and his opponent will be 340 pound John Stover. Morrison insists that the fight will not go to the ground.

“This guy’s like 350 pounds, so no, I’m not going to the ground. I saw a tape of him the other day, and he’s a big sonofabitch but he’s awkward and slow. But I’m just doing it to help Peter McKinn out, pick up a little money, and sharpen my skills. Then, 20 days later I’ll be back on a Top Rank card at the same place. This is a one time thing. I’m making money and sharpening my skills and it could possibly lead to a mega pay per view fight with Chuck Liddell in Japan down the line. I’ll go over there, make about ten million bucks, slap him out in three rounds…easiest ten million dollars you can make in your life.”

Ahh, there it is. Chuck Liddell. Morrison has been making noise about fighting Liddell in a big money fight ever since Liddell nearly incoherently uttered his name. I asked Tommy if he knew about Chuck’s claims that he was on cold medicine and was trying to make a joke. Then I read to Tommy a comment Chuck had made in ESPN the Magazine about how he would “drop a boxer so fast.” In response to the latter, Tommy, always quick with a good one-liner, laughed.

“I think he must have had a double dose of cold medicine!” Morrison says. “I’ve never met the guy. He shouldn’t have done that. People are talking about it now. The thing people don’t understand is these UFC guys, if they’re going against another UFC guy, they’re probably pretty good, but a skilled boxer…Butterbean is putting guys in the f*cking hospital. And Butterbean in the boxing world is below mediocre, but in UFC he’s mowing through guys like a knife through hot butter. And (Ray) Mercer is making the transition, Mayweather’s talked about it, and I’m going to do it. Once fighters (boxers) start planting these f*ckers, that sport will go down the tubes in six months. You wait. It’s gonna happen, and we’re going to cash in on it before it happens and ride the waves and expose them.”

Morrison says he is interested in getting into a joint venture in the boxing promotion business, and views Branson, Missouri as the next Las Vegas. “People don’t want to go to Vegas anymore, and when the gambling comes in to Branson to go along with all of the entertainers and shows they already have, we can put on some boxing.”

Finally, to all the doubters out there, Morrison leaves us with this message.

“If any of these people out there could have seen me in the gym the last couple of weeks, they would have no doubt any more. I’m going to be a better fighter than I ever was, I already see that. I saw that three or four months ago. It’s something that comes along with being older, you become more seasoned, you become more relaxed and you think more consistently and efficiently. And it’s something that I’ve been doing my whole life, so everything’s coming together. Everything is really coming together. There’s nobody who is going to stand in my way. There’s nobody out there who can stop me. Let’s go, bring it on. You just go out there and hit him on the chin, that’s all you do. You don’t go out there and be all apprehensive and try to stay away from him. You go out there, hit him on his chin, get your money and go home. None of these guys can beat me. That’s what I have to say to all the doubters out there. Just give it a little time. We’re hitting speed bumps here and there, and a few more political hoops we’re going to jump through, but this thing is going to happen regardless. It might be a long road, but it’s still going to go on. I’ll go back and forth between boxing and mixed martial arts if I have to, there’s possibly a lot of money to be made there. Maybe build something up with Chuck Liddell, I’m going to show up at his press conference in Vegas and I’m going to pop off to him and get some sh*t going.”

Should be lots of fun. Stay tuned.

Writer’s Note: I would like to thank Ms. Lisa Woodard for her assistance in arranging this interview. I would also like to thank Tommy for his time and for his friendship. Thank you both!

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