Following a year's suspension for painkillers and an ugly boring loss, Ultimate Fighter veteran Chris Leben might be at the end of his UFC career if he loses to Andrew Craig at UFC 162 on Saturday. He was a guest on MMA Fighting's MMA Hour yesterday and told Ariel Helwani he thinks he'll be fine:
I'm here in San Diego, training at Alliance and I didn't realize what I'm missing. It has been so many years since I was a member of a hardcore training team like this. In Hawaii, I was a little bit of a lone wolf.
"No 'yes men' here. If I wasn't doing that great, maybe I could whine a little and get a little bit of a break from my coaches, but that just doesn't happen here. At first, I thought, 'They're pushing me hard.' Then I realized that it never lets up. They're pushing me hard, and they continue to push me hard. In order for me to be able to train with these guys, and compete with these guys, I had to do everything perfect. I had to get my rest and stay on my diet. Every day, you're facing hard intense training with guys who want to be the best. Anyway, it forced me to clean my act up even more. My diet has been dialed in. My rest has been dialed in. In the gym, they're pushing me harder than I've ever been pushed.
"I'm a firm believer every fight is won or lost before Saturday night," he said. "Having said that, the fight should be in the bag already. I've already beaten Andrew Craig in the work I've done to prepare. I'm waiting for the fight, to get the money in the bank, and then getting back to train."
The 32-year-old Leben is 1-3 in his last 4 UFC bouts. He's 22-9 overall and 13-8 with the UFC. He's been a staple of the promotion since being one of the stars of the breakout first season of The Ultimate Fighter. Leben, along with Josh Koscheck, Diego Sanchez and Mike Swick is one of only 4 TUF 1 veterans still active in the UFC.
Leben has twice served suspensions for failed drug tests in that time, once for steroids and once for pain killers.
He took an ugly decision loss to Derek Brunson in his last UFC outing, a boring fight for which he blames his opponent:
"I was training for a right-handed brawler who comes at you and I got a left-handed wrestler. I was active on the bottom. I had some close catches (near submissions). But in the UFC, the guy on top is the one they say is winning. In the stand-up, he didn't want any part of me. After having time off, I didn't push it to the level I should. Both of us made some mistakes, but I have to say him more than me."