UFC 116 Preview: Chris Leben and Yoshihiro Akiyama Are Not Showing Much Mutual Respect

Akiyama at yesterday's open workout via MMA Mania

Bottom line is he signed with the UFC. He signed to fight on this card. His opponent got hurt. Opponents get hurt. His job is to get in there and mix it up. For him to say I'm not a worthy opponent kind of throws me. I've got ten wins in the UFC. He's got one UFC win over Alan Belcher by split decision. I don't think that qualifies him to say that I'm not qualified to face him.

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The more I thought about, it became clear, I am a fighter. This is what I do," Leben said. "I've got a limited window of time in this sport. I kind of killed two birds with one stone, two fights, one training camp. And this is a huge-profile fight.

Chris Leben talking to MMA Fighting.

"I'm very familiar with Chris' popularity in the States, but compared to Wanderlei overseas, [Wanderlei] is a much more bigger name in Korea and Japan," he said through an interpreter. "For me, to improve the popularity of MMA in Japan is one of my goals as well, and to do that, that's a lesser name. That's where I stood."

Akiyama and his supporters, though, disagreed (with Leben about taking the fight). He had long planned to have a large group of friends and family accompany him to the Silva fight. A bout with Leben didn't seem to capture their imaginations in the same way. And while Akiyama said that while his loved ones urged him to make his own decision, "they all kind of said you should withdraw from the fight."

"It was a 50/50 decision," he said. "It just got to a point where I'm not going to do it for myself, but for the fans and everybody else. So that's how I decided to take the fight."

Yoshihiro Akiyama talking to MMA Fighting.

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