Chuck "the Iceman" Liddell still lives in the town of his alma mater. That's right: This trained lethal weapon earned a B.A. in accounting at Cal Poly before claiming the Ultimate Fighting Championship light heavyweight title in 2005. He's since become a mixed martial arts superstar, appearing on an episode of HBO's Entourage and authoring the memoir Iceman: My Fighting Life. Here, Liddell revisits his Cal Poly days, back when he juggled priorities and drank a lot of caffeine.
Occupation: UFC fighter
Grew up: Santa Barbara, Calif.
College attended: California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo
Graduation year: 1995
Nickname: The Iceman. My trainer called me that because I don't get nervous before fights.
Favorite drink/midnight snack: Mountain Dew was my favorite drink through college; it kept me up studying for a lot of tests. Also, any kind of candy. How and why did you choose your major?
I was just good at it. Numbers have always come easy to me. When you came in as a freshman at Cal Poly, you had to declare a major. After about three years, I thought about changing it to construction management, because I was doing construction over the summers, or to PE. Originally, PE was the major I wanted, but my grandparents didn't see it as a real major. They saw it as I was going to be a PE teacher: They didn't realize that at Cal Poly, it was only two classes away from being pre-med. They didn't see that as looking for a real job. I think being a PE coach is a real job, but that's just me. Were you a part of any activities like sports, music, clubs, or theater?
I played football my first year, and I wrestled for all five. You start football before schools starts, and when you're done with football, wrestling has already started. Then when you're done with wrestling, there are three or four weeks and you're back into spring ball. And then you have a half of a summer and you're back into summer football. It was just a little much. Plus, I was trying to cut weight for wrestling and trying put on weight for football. It got to the point where I had to make a decision about where I wanted to be. I think I made the right decision with what I ended up doing.
Do you keep in touch with any of your college friends?
Yeah, a bunch of them. I still live in San Luis Obispo, so there's a bunch of us still here. Up until a couple years ago, my best friend in college lived a block away from me. Were you a bookworm or a slacker?
I was the guy that would cram for everything, so I guess I was a bit of a slacker. I was a procrastinator. I spent a lot of all-nighters getting ready for tests. Did you have a role model when you were in college?
Not really. I just kind of learned stuff on my own. What was the biggest obstacle you overcame in college?
The biggest thing was balancing working out, competing, and academics to graduate. And also working in the summers to try and save money. What did you like most and least about your school?
I love the town. It's a small town; it's beautiful here. I like visiting big cities, but I don't do well there for long periods of time. Tell us one way in which college changed you.
I grew up while I was in college. I learned how to take care of myself. I learned how to prioritize things. I learned how to get things done. If you could go back, what about college would you do differently?
I might have cared a little more about my grades. I ended up with a 3.1, but I could have easily done a lot better. I just didn't care too much. I had a class where I was actually tutoring two kids from the wrestling team, but I got a C because I didn't do any of the homework. The teacher said if turned in my homework on the day of the final, she'd give me my A or else she was going to give me a C. The guys I was tutoring gave me the homework to copy, and I copied four of them and said screw it: I'll take the C. Stuff like that. Not that it matters too much. I mean, I graduated.
What were two things you did for the first time while in college?
I drank, but not until I was 21. I can't think of anything else. Nothing interesting, I don't think. What was your favorite hangout spot?
I used to bar-tend in college at a cool place. It was called Brubeck's. I worked probably six or seven days a week. We'd get a lot of different people there; it was a lot of fun. Which schools did you apply to?
U of C-Berkeley, Cal Poly, and other West Coast schools. I went with Cal Poly because I wanted to wrestle and play football. Did you get into all of them?
I got into all the schools I applied to except Cal Poly. I guess they lost my application. I never got a rejection or an acceptance. I either messed up on the application or it just didn't get through. My coach had to get me in. They have a way for a lot of teams to get you into the school. I don't know how it worked exactly, but I had the grades and SATs to get into my major.