Former light-heavyweight champion Chuck (The Iceman) Liddell will take on former middleweight title-holder Rich (Ace) Franklin in the main event of UFC 115 in Vancouver on June 12.
Liddell had been expected to fight Tito (The Huntington Beach Bad Boy) Ortiz for a third time in the marquee bout at GM Place. The two are currently serving as rival coaches on Season 11 of “The Ultimate Fighter,” a reality TV matchup that is traditionally followed by a pay-per-view showdown.
In announcing the card Monday on its website, the UFC did not offer a reason for the main event switch. But rumours of Franklin replacing Ortiz on the show and as Liddell’s opponent have been surfacing for weeks.
Asked about the reason for the main event change, UFC president Dana White teasingly texted: “Gonna have to watch TUF.”
The 40-year-old Liddell (21-7) has not fought since UFC 97 last April, when he was knocked out by Mauricio (Shogun) Rua. The Iceman has lost four of his last five fights and, outside of “The Ultimate Fighter,” his most recent activity was stepping out on “Dancing With the Stars.”
Franklin (27-5 with one no contest) is a former 185-pound champion who now campaigns as a light-heavyweight. The 35-year-old lost his last outing by knockout to Vitor (The Phenom) Belfort at a catchweight at UFC 103 last September.
The battle of ex-champions will be contested at 205 pounds.
The Vancouver mixed martial arts card features two Canadians in welterweights Rory (The Waterboy) MacDonald and newcomer Claude Patrick.
MacDonald faces a tough opponent in Carlos (The Natural Born Killer) Condit on the main card while Patrick faces Brazilian Ricardo Funch on the undercard.
Croatian veteran Mirko (Cro Cop) Filipovic takes on kickboxer Pat (HD) Barry in the co-main event. The other main card fights are welterweight Paulo Thiago versus Martin (The Hitman) Kampmann, and lightweight Tyson Griffin versus Evan Dunham.
Also on the undercard, (Big) Ben Rothwell takes on heavyweight Gilbert (The Hurricane) Yvel, English welterweight James (Lightning)Wilks meets Germany’s Peter Sobotta, and welterweight Mike (Quicksand) Pyle tackles Jesse (The Ox) Lynch.
There was no mention of a welterweight bout between Jon Fitch and Thiago Alves which White trumpeted on Twitter last week.
UFC 115 tickets go on sale Tuesday for members of the UFC Fight Club and Wednesday for UFC newsletter subscribers. They are available to the general public Thursday.
Tickets range from $76 to $601.