Chris Leben is Fighting Again Because ‘Combat Sports is My Life’ • MMA News
Chris Leben has always been a fighter.
Long before he was an original cast member on the first
season of “The Ultimate Fighter”, Leben grew up fighting and it’s just always
been something in his blood.
For the better part of 11 years, Leben dedicated his life to
fighting until some tough losses and mounting injuries convinced him it was
time to walk away.
Leben retired from MMA in 2013 but then less than three
years later he announced his return after inking a deal with Bellator MMA. Leben
ever actually competed for the Viacom owned promotion after pre-fight medical
testing revealed a heart abnormality that could have been life threatening if
he were to step into the cage again.
It forced Leben to begin looking at new avenues for his life
including coaching and refereeing but he never completely gave up on fighting
Now in 2019, Leben says his heart is healthy and his mind is
right after getting clean and sober from alcohol and drugs. With a new family to
support, Leben decided it was time to get back to doing what he’s always done
best and that’s fight.
“Combat sports is my life,” Leben said ahead of his debut
for Bare Knuckle Fighting Championships (BKFC). “Obviously, I trained MMA
forever. I’ve done some kickboxing matches. My full time job now is that I’m a
coach, I’m a referee. I’m doing the bare knuckle thing. I love combat sports. I
love them all.
“It sounds cheesy but I consider myself a martial artist so
when it comes to any of these combat sports, I want to at least know what I’m
talking about. Whether you’re talking to me about bare knuckle, kickboxing,
MMA, whatever, I want to know what I’m talking about.”
Leben actually made his initial comeback last year when he
was offered a hefty contract to compete in bare knuckle boxing against fellow
UFC veteran Phil Baroni.
The promotion — World Bare Knuckle Fighting Federation — was
seemingly a disaster waiting to happen with financial problems plaguing the
debut show before it even started. The good news for Leben was he earned a
stunning 79-second knockout in his first fight back in five years.
The bad news was Leben didn’t get paid for his fight outside
of the $10,000 fee he negotiated for training expenses before ever stepping
into the ring. Just recently, Leben filed a lawsuit against the promotion and
its owner Tomasz Stankiewicz for the additional $90,000 he’s owed.
In reality, Leben says he knows he will probably never see
another dime of the money he’s owed but he wants to expose promoters like this
one who take advantage of fighters in this industry.
“Honestly, that’s kind of my main goal at this point. I
realize you can’t squeeze water out of a rock but I want to bring as much
attention to what happened as possible,” Leben said. “Ultimately if it was a Ponzi
scheme to begin with, I would like to get to the bottom of that.
“I would like to personally know. I’m definitely starting to
lean towards that as a theory.”
Despite the sour experience he had with that promotion,
Leben was happy to receive an offer from BKFC, a well established bare-knuckle
boxing organization about to put on their fifth event on pay-per-view this
While he’s yet to actually fight for BKFC, Leben says the
experience has been night and day compared to the disaster he dealt with surrounding
his last appearance in a bare knuckle boxing match.
“These guys are awesome,” Leben said. “They’ve had four spectacular
shows and after everything that happened, I’ll be able to get out there and
compete. The last fight went well. My training camp went well. I was able to
prove to myself that I still can do this. I can get my body in shape and I can
go out and compete at a high level. In that aspect, everything is great.
“Now I get to go out perform on a big stage and do what I
love and hopefully bring some money home for my family.”
More than anything, Leben just wants to compete again while
earning money to provide for his family. It’s the one job he’s always loved and
he’s always done best.
“For me it doesn’t matter if I’m doing MMA or if I’m doing
bare knuckle [boxing] or I was doing a kickboxing match, I’m preparing to
compete,” Leben said. “When you’re preparing to compete at the highest level,
you’ve got to make sure you’re ready for everything.
“I want to go out and be the best I possibly can.”