Anaheim's Honda Center will be the place where former Ultimate Fighting Championship light-heavyweight champion Chuck Liddell fights for the first time since losing his belt in a surprising first-round knockout loss to Quinton "Rampage" Jackson, UFC officials confirmed Tuesday.
Liddell will fight mixed martial arts veteran Keith Jardine in the main event of UFC 76, scheduled for Sept. 22.
The card will also feature another high-profile light-heavyweight bout pitting Forrest Griffin (14-4), the winner of Spike TV's reality television series "The Ultimate Fighter I," against 2005 PRIDE Fighting Championships grand prix middleweight champion Mauricio "Shogun" Rua in his UFC debut.
Rua, a Brazilian who has defeated Jackson, is fighting in the UFC Octagon for the first time since the Las Vegas-based organization purchased Japan-based PRIDE earlier this year.
UFC President Dana White has expressed frustration at the scheduling and accounting overseen by the previous PRIDE owners, and told reporters at the UFC event earlier this month in Sacramento that "these guys need to fight."
The 38-year-old Liddell, UFC's most popular fighter, was knocked out less than two minutes into the first round of his May championship defense against Irvine's Jackson at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. Liddell had won seven consecutive fights by knockout, a string that included victories over Huntington Beach's Tito Ortiz and current UFC heavyweight champion Randy Couture.
Liddell was due to fight former PRIDE champion Wanderlei Silva in an anticipated showdown in Anaheim, but Silva opted not to fight, forcing the UFC to scramble for a replacement opponent in a pay-per-view card that is absent a title fight.
"I was hoping to get Wanderlei. If he doesn't want to fight, what are you going to do?" Liddell said. "I just want to get back to fighting and get my title shot."
But will he get one if he beats Jardine?
"I deserve one," Liddell said.
Like Liddell (20-4), Jardine (12-4-1) was also dismissed in the first round of his most recent fight.
On the same night Liddell lost, Jardine, 31, was a heavier 5-1 favorite against Houston Alexander, who was making his UFC debut. Alexander belted Jardine with a right uppercut and proceeded to pound him until the fight was stopped 48 seconds after it started.
A fight earlier, Jardine appeared on his way toward a title fight shot when he knocked out Griffin in the first round.
"He'll get in there and strike with me, so I think the fans will like that," Liddell said of Jardine.
"For me, I think this is a great fight and people shouldn't underestimate me," Jardine said in a prepared statement. "I think [Liddell] knows this will be similar to my fight with Forrest, a good, exciting, stand-up fight ... that ends with a knockout."