Chris Leben faces Andrew Craig this Saturday at UFC 162. A loser in three of his past four fights, the popular and sometimes-troubled middleweight said he is better than ever heading into a pivotal bout in Las Vegas.
"I truly am in the best shape of my life," Leben said Monday on The MMA Hour broadcast. "Finally, for once, I’m doing everything right in and out of the cage. And I’ve got a great support group."
It's not exactly a groundbreaking soundbite, but there is reason to believe Leben's sentiment is more than pure platitude. The 32-year-old Leben (22-9) credited his current condition to a recent change in training camp. Not long ago, Leben and his wife moved to San Diego, and Leben now belongs to the Alliance MMA team. For several years before, Leben trained and coached in Hawaii.
Leben said Monday that the Alliance team has put him through his paces—something he didn't face too often as a top dog in his Oahu gym.
“It had been a long time since I had been a part of a hardcore training team like this," Leben said. "I was a little bit of a lone wolf out [in Hawaii]. I had some great guys to train with, but when it came camp time, it was really just me...There's no yes-men here."
Leben has lost two consecutive fights: one to Mark Munoz in November 2011 and the second to Derek Brunson in December 2012. Following his loss to Munoz, Leben tested positive for oxycodone and oxymorphone and was suspended for a year. It was the second failed drug test and suspension of Leben's career.
As a result of his checkered background, Leben said the Alliance team—which includes standouts like UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz and Bellator lightweight beltholder Michael Chandler—was initially leery about Leben's membership. But Leben said he is back on the straight and narrow and has earned the team's trust.
"They started pushing me hard, and they continue to push me hard," Leben said. "It really forced me to clean my act up even more."