When Chris Leben first emerged onto the UFC scene, he was known as the cast drunk and trash talker on the inaugural season of “The Ultimate Fighter.” After rolling off five consecutive wins since the show wrapped, the UFC put him up against Anderson Silva in his UFC debut. Since that highlight reel loss, Leben has posted a 3-2 record, and been incarcerated for a probation violation. With the slate wiped clean, Leben looks to once again become a threat in the 185-pound division as he takes on Michael Bisping at this weekend’s UFC 89 event.
“I think this fight is really a deciding factor of who’s gonna be at that top tier, you know, in the middleweight division (and) who’s gonna be in line for a title shot,” Leben said. “Who’s gonna fall back down and be kind of in the midst of the pack.”
These two were initially slated to face off at UFC 85 in June, however an off-the-Octagon incident prevented Leben from getting his passport to travel to London for the fight. In fact, his probation violation prevented him from having freedom for a month.
“I had got a DUI in Oregon,” Leben said about his legal issues. “I was supposed to take care of … there was a bunch of diversion-type stuff. I had to go to a class, and obviously obey the terms of my probation. One of the terms of my probation was not to leave the state. I moved to Hawaii. Apparently, you can’t do that. (laughs) … I’m done now. It’s pretty cool. I was a little worried about going through customs, but I’m in the country now. I got a nice clean record, and yeah, everything is taken care of.”
Leben served his time, has put his past behind him, and is now focused on the future. The immediate future takes him to his opponnet’s backyard for UFC 89. Having to fight someone in front of his hometown may have affected the old Leben, however the new Leben is just thankful for another shot at Bisping.
“When I was first slated to fight Michael Bisping, it was a huge opportunity for me,” said Leben. “It’s a fight that I personally wanted, and obviously some things came up and caused me to not take that fight. It was a huge bummer. It was a giant letdown. It was a letdown for me, it was a letdown for my camp, it was a letdown for the fans, and you know, obviously Michael as well.
“Luckily the UFC came back around. They knew it’s the fight everybody wants to see. They offered it again, and I gotta tell you, it lit a fire underneath me. To have that opportunity pulled away from me like I did, when I got that second chance, you know, it just made me that much more focused, that much more intense. Obviously Michael got another great win in decisive fashion. So for me, all that played into being one giant motivator for training for this bout.”