Leben has matured enough to take his career so seriously that days after a fight with one of the division’s top prospects, he was willing to step back in there exactly two weeks later.
see some interesting things in Las Vegas at six on a Sunday morning.
Nearly two weeks ago, Chris Leben was leaving The Palms hotel, catching
a cab to the airport following his stirring Knockout of the Night win
over Aaron Simpson the night before.
As ‘The Crippler’ waiting to load up his bags, he was approached by
a couple who looked to have had too many adult beverages. The woman
asked for a picture, and Leben obliged with no hesitation. The man
asked the middleweight contender if he could fight him later.
Yes, fight him later.
Leben, having been in situations like this before, simply turned and opened the cab door, saying “I did my work last night.”
“But that was your jobbbbbbbbbbbbb,” came the response.
The cab sped away, and soon Leben was on his way back home to
Hawaii. He wasn’t scheduled to leave until 3pm that Sunday, but decided
to catch an earlier flight. It was a far cry from the “old” Chris
Leben, who admitted with a laugh, “The old Chris Leben would have still
been at a club.”
And that’s really the story heading into Leben’s UFC 116 co-main
event bout against Yoshihiro Akiyama this Saturday night. Not that he
has matured enough to ignore drunk ‘fans’ in incidents he simply calls
“pretty funny”, but that he has matured enough in life to put the
partying scene behind him, stick to a strict training regimen, and take
his career so seriously that a couple days after a fight with one of
the division’s top prospects, he was willing to step back in there
exactly two weeks later.
“It’s a great fight and an opportunity I couldn’t pass up,” said
Leben, who wasn’t exactly feeling that way when he initially got the
call from the UFC on the Monday after his fight to replace the injured
Wanderlei Silva against Akiyama.
“I woke up and I was all sore, and Joe (Silva) was already calling
me,” said Leben. “He asked me to fight and I said no way. But the more
I thought about it, I’m a fighter, that’s what I do. I’d be mad at
myself if I passed this opportunity up. This is what I do. I’ll have
plenty of opportunity to take a vacation after July 3rd.”
Immediately after accepting the fight, Leben kicked things back into
gear, got trainer Burton Richardson and longtime training partner Nate
Quarry on the phone, and it was business as usual. And as far as Leben
was concerned, it didn’t matter who was going to be standing across
from him on fight night, he was raring to go.
“My coaches know a lot more about him than I do,” said Leben of
Akiyama. “Burton Richardson’s real familiar with him. Besides that, I
remember the fight with Alan Belcher (at UFC 100), and I thought he
lost that fight. I think he’s basically a little slower version of the
guy I just fought (Aaron Simpson). He’s an awesome judo player, he’s
got fast kicks, but I don’t think he’s got near the wrestling that
Aaron Simpson has and I don’t think he’s got knockout power.”
Leben does have KO power though, something that was never more
evident than on June 19th, when he scored his 11th career knockout (in
20 wins) over the previously unbeaten Simpson, a 3 to 1 favorite
heading into the bout. The 29-year old Leben disregarded the odds, ate
some shots, and then delivered his own, halting his foe in the second
round in one of his best UFC performances to date. Leben said things
couldn’t have gone any better.
“Everything for that fight worked like clockwork,” said the Oregon
native, who has now won two in a row and four of his last six. “The
weight came off like clockwork, my training worked out perfect, and
everything fell into place, and that showed in the fight. I went into
the fight not injured for the first time in a long time, and
surprisingly enough, I left the fight not injured either, so I feel
And now he’s ready to do it again. Funny, the interesting things you
see in Vegas, and watching Chris Leben fight twice in two weeks is
definitely on top of the list.