Every sport has its rivalries, some more heated than others, due to heated pasts, geographic location pitting teams against each other, or players themselves often battling for the top spot. Yankees vs Red Sox, Muhammed Ali vs Joe Frazier, Arnold Palmer vs Jack Nicklaus, Federer vs Nadal, Army vs Navy NCAA football, Lakers vs Celtics, the list goes on and on. Sports like pro wrestling thrive on creating rivalries to sell tickets or pay-per-view events for the big blow outs, and there's a list a few miles long of the great battles there. The UFC may still be relatively new in all this, but it has had its fair share of bad blood between fighters. Wanderlei Silva and Quinton "Rampage" Jackson, Tito Ortiz and Ken Shamrock, Matt Hughes and Matt Sera, and B.J. Penn and Georges St. Pierre have all had storied pasts, some continuing to this day, but one of the nastier feuds in the sport belongs to Tito Ortiz and Chuck "The Iceman" Liddell. 'UFC Bad Blood: Chuck Liddell vs Tito Ortiz' focuses on the pasts of these two combatants, their fallout, and eventual two main event bouts.
Debuting four UFC events apart, Ortiz and Liddell once trained together, residing in close enough proximity to build a working, friendly relationship, but the mutual quest to be top dog of the LHD (Light Heavyweight Division) would set them on a collision course, their close relationship in the past making the eventual rivalry turn nasty. Of course, Ortiz's caustic personality and showmanship (which would be perfectly suited for the WWE, let's be honest) would do the man no favors when it came to working relationships, but the tangled, controversial web between these two men is a true to life soap opera, only with lots of violence.
'UFC Bad Blood: Chuck Liddell vs Tito Ortiz' is a very well put together feature for fans and newcomers to the UFC stage, and despite being reality, is so steeped in theatrics and complex personalities and pasts, one can't help but think of the manufactured feuds to raise awareness for an event. Reality just trumps fiction here, as the story delved into is so rich, so interesting, one can't write a better script than this.
While we get to delve into the pasts of both men, from very different backgrounds, the real meat and potatoes happens not when they debut, but with the Ortiz contract dispute. From here on, both UFC president Dana White and Liddell paint Ortiz as a coward (though they use a much less flattering word). It's really amazing seeing the president of a company being so hard on one of his most bankable stars, but the bad blood between Ortiz and White itself could probably be the followup feature from UFC it's so tense (and this rivalry between star and former manager-now boss includes Ortiz wearing clothing calling White his bitch at official UFC events). Considering who this show is produced by, regardless of how you feel about any of the men involved, the whole thing seems like a propaganda piece of epic anti-Ortiz proportions. The guy didn't make it easy to root for him, with his persona really aiming to piss off his rivals, but presented here on this disc, that is to be a retrospective, it is really a petty move how it's handled. The amount of airtime given to Ortiz to shoot his piece is less than Liddell gets, and Ortiz's features focus more on his personal life, while Liddell and White frequently play the "Ortiz is a pussy" card.
The victors write the history books, and when your enemy is the president of the company, you will never be painted in a positive light. Both of these fabled UFC fighters brought a lot to the sport, and are pivotal in making it what it is today. Love them or hate them, their intertwined history is one of the bigger building blocks for the sport. UFC brings the men and their story, good or bad, to home video for the masses in what may essentially be the opposite of a puff piece. This heavily editorialized feature is more opinion than fact, more vitriol than good will, more bad blood than blood itself. It's a very interesting piece, and is very well made, but is about as uneven and skewed as a Picasso.
The Disc: Vital Stats
'UFC Bad Blood: Chuck Liddell vs Tito Ortiz' comes to Blu-ray on a BD50 disc with no Region markings, housed in a somewhat slim digibook (this is not UFC's first Blu-ray digibook, though, as UFC Ultimate Royce Gracie also was packaged in this manner). The disc holder itself is a sleeve that exits through the top, not a normal disc clasp. Pre-menu there is a trailer for UFC.com, and the menu itself is a full motion video/audio loop. There is no setup tab on the menu, just play, chapter, and extras options.
The digibook itself is pretty darned cool. I like the career recaps of both fighters, in their extended profiles. It is really, really well made.
'UFC Bad Blood: Chuck Liddell vs Tito Ortiz' is given a 1080i release (the company, much like the WWE, have not put out any 1080p Blu-ray content), in the 1.78:1 frame. Since this release is a compilation, a retrospective of sorts, some of the footage contained is not up to the modern UFC quality standards. None of it is degraded or dirty, though. Rather, older footage can have some heavier artifacting, heavier grain, and random video anomalies.
The modern interview footage that seemingly was recorded for this release isn't bad, but it isn't great. Skin tones are natural, and textures can be quite solid for the most part. Detail levels are very good, with great stray hair pops, and plenty of miniscule, minor details, in clothing especially, coming through loud and clear. The picture can be deep at times, in the outdoors shots, but the interior moments don't have much to work with in this regard. I really, really enjoyed the character on display in Ortiz's face, the scars, blemishes, and pores all look great!
However, the footage can seem a bit choppy at times, there's some light aliasing issues, obvious interlacing, and a few minor issues. The footage of Liddell's barber, replete with his tight vertical striped shirt, is an eyesore, with lots of moire visible, and a constant weird shift in the pattern. Some of the footage isn't perfectly clear, and it's astonishing how little detail is shown in Liddell's visage. Green grass in backgrounds is never clearly defined, and comes through as a non-distinct blob.
Disclaimer: In the pre-menu screens, there is a windowboxed blue card that states that any old footage may be in the 1.33:1 format, natural to its recording. However, in this release, there isn't a single moment with pillarboxes on the sides of the screen. I cannot say if any of the footage contained in this release was originally 1.33:1 and cropped or zoomed to 1.78:1. I would bet that this is a default screen in UFC discs that feature older footage, and may not necessarily be relevant to this release.
As is mentioned in the Vital Stats area of the review, there is no setup tab for 'UFC Bad Blood: Chuck Liddell vs Tito Ortiz.' Viewers get one audio choice, and no subtitle options. Of course, as is standard for UFC releases on Blu-ray, the lone flavor available is a lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 track. I'll admit, I actually liked the way this disc sounded much more than some of the events or compilation discs released by the UFC. I cannot compare it to the Royce Gracie disc, which was the first UFC fighter feature Blu-ray, but I can say fans should be pleased.
Sure, there's still some degraded, distorted, tinny and shrill audio to be found in some of the older fights that are sampled in this release, but much like the video, that's historic. Bass levels start very poorly, but do gain some light steam; they're still somewhat light for my taste, though. Dialogue had no problem with clarity in the bits recorded for this feature. There is no awkward prioritization issue to be heard, an issue that has plagued past event releases from the UFC. There are a few moments where, in the interview footage, one can hear the mic being fumbled with, thumping heavily, which sucks (no other word for it), and is a poor sign of quality control, but that's inherent in the recording. At the end of the day, all the information gets out there, almost all cleanly, with a nice remixing job done by the folks mastering this special feature piece.
'UFC Bad Blood: Chuck Liddell vs Tito Ortiz' is an interesting retrospective on one of the most famous rivalries in MMA history, though the very tinted glasses this feature is viewed through can be a bit much. Fans will enjoy the look behind the scenes, detailing the matches, the history of the men, which is so much more interesting than most of the "sports entertainment" on the air today. The Blu-ray digibook release of this feature has the usual ups and downs, so anyone who owns a UFC Blu-ray release knows exactly what to expect. This set is worth a look, but I do wonder how much replay value it possesses.