INGLEWOOD, Calif. -- It took him 12 years, but Tito Ortiz finally got the revenge he was looking for Saturday night.
In an unexpected trilogy bout between two of MMA's greatest rivals, Ortiz (20-12-1) knocked out Chuck Liddell at 4 minutes, 24 seconds of the opening round at The Forum. The 205-pound contest headlined the first MMA event by Golden Boy Promotions.
For Liddell, 48, it was his first appearance since retiring from the sport in 2011. The rust did show, as the once-feared striker looked tentative in the cage and slow in his reactions. The finish came in the form of a straight right hand on the feet, followed by several punches on the ground.
"The whole game plan was never to take him down," Ortiz said. "I wanted to box with Chuck. I wanted to test his skills. You're not taking eight years off and coming back into my cage and stopping me. Hell no."
It was a result for which Ortiz, 43, had waited years. He has long maintained he and Liddell (21-9) were close friends when the UFC and Liddell decided to break the friendship and promote a title fight between them. Ortiz lost to Liddell via knockout in 2004 and '06, in a rivalry that helped build the sport.
After a couple of minutes of feeling out Liddell, Ortiz went in for the kill. He pawed at his own chin and dared Liddell to swing, as he walked his rival down. Near the end, it was clear Ortiz had no respect for Liddell's power, which was always his best attribute.
Ortiz, of Huntington Beach, California, buried the hatchet with Liddell immediately after the bout, and even encouraged him to fight again.
"I've got to be respectful. Chuck Liddell, thank you for taking this fight," Ortiz said. "You gave me an opportunity to show my skills. We're starting a business with Oscar De La Hoya. Chuck, hey, you pushed me hard. You made me work super hard.
"You're a true champion, brother."
Liddell, who was once encouraged to retire by his close friend and UFC president Dana White, was noncommittal on his future. Entering the bout he had said he wished to fight more than once, but he also stated that if he lost to Ortiz he probably shouldn't be fighting anymore.
"I was ready for this fight," Liddell said. "I made a mistake. It is what it is. I don't think it was my best showing, but I got in shape. I was ready."
De La Hoya has not committed to another MMA event. All fighters on Saturday's card were on a one-fight deal. Liddell led the field in pay, pocketing a disclosed purse of $250,000. Ortiz made a disclosed purse of $200,000. Both are also partners with Golden Boy in pay-per-view revenue.
Liddell, of San Luis Obispo, California, has now suffered seven losses by knockout in his illustrious career. For Ortiz, it is his first win by knockout since 2006.