Zuffa credentialed Fighters Only has the story:
Chuck Liddell will be fighting Rich Franklin in his next bout and not rival TUF 11 coach Tito Ortiz, Fighters Only has heard from a reliable source. The switch was initially reported to us just under two weeks ago but was only a rumour at that time.
However, the rumour hit message boards late last night and an industry source confirmed that Liddell will indeed be facing former middleweight champion Rich Franklin. The fight is to headline an April 17th Fight Night event which will counter Strikeforce's show on the same date.
They also report that Tito Ortiz won't be fighting Liddell, but not for health reasons and that the "reason for his withdrawal is known to Fighters Only is something that may significantly impact his future as a fighter."
Josh Gross has more on the situation in Tennessee:
According to Tennessee State Athletic Commission regulations, Zuffa has until Thursday, March 18, to file an event permit application should the Las Vegas-based promotional company wish to counter Strikeforce's April 17 date in Nashville.
Tennessee executive director Jeff Mullen told SI.com on Wednesday that promoters are required to submit an application with the state no less than 30 days in advance of their requested date.
After Strikeforce and CBS officially announced April 17 at the Bridgestone Arena as the venue for their next show, rumors swirled that executives from UFC and SpikeTV were considering adding an event on the same night in the same town.
Should UFC opt to move forward, and to this point it has not informed Mullen it would, April 17 marks the first time Tennessee is tasked with overseeing two major events on the same night.
"We would have to really look at how things are developing and we'd probably have to borrow some manpower from somewhere," Mullen said of the commission's ability to handle both events. "It would be way bigger than anything we've ever done, but I don't think it's something we couldn't do, we'd just have to make some unusual arrangements to make it work."
I really have to question the UFC's wisdom here. Not only are they losing the Tito Ortiz vs Chuck Liddell headliner for UFC 115 (although that may have been unavoidable due to Tito's mysterious issues) but they are also pushing the TN Athletic Commission to the limits of their resources and capabilities. If someone gets hurt in the cage because of poor oversight, Dana White should be held to answer for it.
They are also completely strip-mining any value that Rich Franklin has as a draw with this long succession of meaningless fights. If Anderson Silva ends up moving up to light heavyweight, it will all have been for naught.
And ultimately, what is the burning reason to destroy Strikeforce anyway? The April 17th show on CBS is already an almost certain ratings disaster thanks to the efforts of M-1 Global to keep Fedor Emelianenko off the card. With Jakes Shields as a headliner, Strikeforce is already virtually counter-programming themselves.[UPDATE] by Nick Thomas: Rich Franklin vs. Chuck Liddell in the works for UFC 115, not rumored April show -
MMAjunkie.com has learned from sources close to the promotion that the two have verbally agreed to face each other in June at UFC 115, though contracts have yet to be finalized.
The Franklin vs. Liddell matchup was first reported by Fighters Only magazine, though the U.K.-based publication pinned the fight to a rumored April 17 UFC Fight Night card that now seems increasingly unlikely to occur.
Those same sources suggested that Franklin was possibly brought in as a replacement coach to finish out the season's filming, and "Ace" now meets Liddell as an opposing "TUF" coach..