It had been more than a year since Chris Leben had last fought in the UFC after dealing with a one-year suspension following a positive drug test in his last fight.
He returned at UFC 155 and faced late replacement Derek Brunson in the kick off fight for the pay-per-view, but unfortunately for him the 13 month absence from action showed in the fight.
Leben struggled early dealing with Brunson’s takedowns and even when his opponent slowed when the cardio of accepting a fight on a week’s notice started to show, he couldn’t take advantage in any way.
Looking back on the decision to put him on the pay-per-view main card, UFC President Dana White says it was a mistake and they should have given Leben a slot on the preliminary card so he could get his feet wet again before jumping back in the deep end.
“I love Chris Leben personally and professionally, he’s a great kid. I think we tonight for the pay-per-view, I made a mistake putting him on the pay-per-view. I should have had him on the undercard,” said White at the UFC 155 post fight press conference.
“He’s been off for personal problems for a while, has had a lot of time off, and he looked slow tonight. I wasn’t crazy about that fight, that was not my favorite fight of the night that’s for damn sure.”
White had his criticisms of Brunson as well, but the Strikeforce transfer accepted the bout only last week when Leben’s original opponent Karlos Vemola dropped out due to injury.
The UFC’s head honcho ultimately takes full responsibility for picking Leben’s fight to be on the main card, and he knows matchmaker Joe Silva will let him hear about it the next time they speak.
“Believe me Joe Silva will blame that one 100-percent on me,” said White.
As far as Leben’s future goes, White has no doubts that he’ll be back in the Octagon again in 2013, he just hopes he can show up more the next time than he did on Saturday night.
“Chris Leben loves to fight, there’s no doubt about that,” said White. “The biggest challenge in Chris Leben’s life is battling his own demons and we try to help him as much as we can, and like I said I love the kid, and I’m sure he’ll be back.”