That’s all well and good, but we’ve heard this kind of talk from Leben before. With a record of 1-3 in his last four fights, the UFC is going to want more than words from Leben when he steps into the Octagon in July.
Words are nice. They get the fans pumped up and put butts in the seats, but Leben gets paid for actions inside the Octagon, not talk outside the cage.
Leben recently appeared on MMAJunkie radio and told the hosts:
With the new gym (Alliance in San Diego) and sticking to my diet and actually walking the line, I feel 10 years younger now than when I was competing earlier. I'm performing better in the gym and we hopefully get to have that transfer over come (fight) night. I don't see myself hanging my hat up anytime soon.
Hold that thought and rewind to September 2012. Leben was coming off of a long layoff following a drug-related suspension and a stint in rehab when he told the same radio show, “I'm a little bummed out for Karlos Vemola because I know he's lost his last couple, and now he's getting a fresh reborn Chris Leben, which is going to be a bit tough for him.”
Leben never got the chance to show Vemola the fresh and reborn version of himself, as Vemola was injured and forced from the card. Instead Leben faced Derek Brunson at UFC 155. The fight was largely uneventful. Brunson and Leben both looked tired and sloppy throughout the 15-minute bout.
Neither fighter did much of anything in the fight, but Brunson did enough to earn the unanimous decision (29-28 x 3). After the fight, Leben proved less than gracious in defeat:
I just had a little ring rust. But that being said derek brunson is a boring fighter the times he hit me, i let him just to get him to swing— Chris Leben (@cripplerufc) January 2, 2013
Leben is a popular fighter with fans and the UFC brass, and it’s easy to understand why he falls into that group of fighters that always looks to entertain. Leben always looks to bring the fight, sometimes at the expense of his personal well being—well, at least he did until UFC 155.
Leben most likely used up his free pass from the UFC in the Brunson fight. I would venture to guess that he also used up a considerable amount of good will from the fans too, delivering a lackluster performance and following that up with excuses.
You can bet the UFC will be watching Leben’s performance at UFC 162 very closely due to his performance against Brunson, his recent record and his salary.
Anything less than a classic Leben performance and he could be facing some questions regarding his future employment. That is a fact that Leben is obviously aware of, telling MMAJunkie, “I have to go out and make a statement, and that's what I plan to do."
That statement will need to be made not with words, but with actions and at the expense of Andrew Craig on July 6 in Las Vegas.