UFC 132 participant Chris Leben has done wrong, but the middleweight mixed martial artist recognizes his faults.
His last fight, which was against Brian Stann, was less than something to brag about. Really, it wasn’t good at all. Leben stepped into the fight and ended up succumbing to what would be only his second knockout loss – his first being to current middleweight champion Anderson Silva.
Wandelei Silva and Chris Leben at the UFC 132 presser
Admittedly, Leben said he made mistakes in his last contest, but his UFC 132 fight against Wanderlei Silva affords him a few opportunities: 1) to prove that he’s improved since the last time he was in the Octagon, and 2) a chance to beat one of the sport’s biggest names, which will do big for notoriety and contention.
Perhaps the sour taste left in Leben’s mouth from his last outing is motivation enough to get him back to his winning ways.
“I went out and lost in my last performance and that’s due to the mistakes that I made,” Leben said recently. “It makes me want to correct those things and let everybody know, hey, I’m better than what they saw. I’ve had my ups and downs for sure with the Brian Stann fight. It just left a (sour) taste in my mouth and I want to go out and get back on the winning side. And I mean, there’s nothing bigger than a win over Wanderlei. That would be huge.”
There were other things that kept Leben from performing at his best, according to “The Crippler.” For one, his diet was, apparently, off a bit. Coming into the fight against Stann, Leben was a little too heavy and he cut a great deal of weight in order to come in under the 185-pound weight limit. Knowing that something like that will cost him dearly again, he’s coming in a lot more focused on maintaining the right diet to be healthy come fight night.
Getting comfortable and underestimating his opponent won’t happen this time, according to Leben. He’s not looking to make the same mistakes with Silva that he did with Stann.
“I’ve had a lot of fights. I should have known better, but I think I just got a little comfortable,” he said. “I was feeling really good after I had a three-(fight) win streak. And I underestimated Brian Stann a little bit. And I think the biggest thing that got affected was with my diet. I came in just a little bit too heavy and I cut too much weight.”
Here’s the clincher, though. Leben says he is… wait for it… scared! No, that wasn’t a typo.
Not a lot of fighters will admit having any bit of fear going into a fight. You’ll usually get the “I’m excited” or “I’m going to knock him out” pre-fight talk, but rarely do you hear “I’m scared” uttered from the mouths of fighters.
No worries, though. Leben is channeling that emotion towards his fight and will use it to his advantage. Maybe being scared translates into adrenaline then into knockout power.
“I’m excited to fight Wanderlei. And, I’m a little scared at the same time, too,” Leben admitted. “But I think, for me, that’s definitely a very motivating and driving emotion. So, I’m really focusing a lot harder on my diet. And when I’m in the gym, I’m in the gym 110 percent. I’m listening to my coaches and I’m putting everything in because I want to go out and I want to win this fight. And regardless of if I win, lose, or draw, I want to go out and at least put on a fantastic show for the fans.”
As far as the fight with Silva goes, Leben feels like he’s getting what’s owed to him. When Silva was injured before his scheduled fight with Yoshihiro Akiyama at UFC 116, Leben stepped up and faced Akiyama as his replacement. The outcome was a hard-fought win for Leben and a memorable match-up that won “Fight of the Night” honors. Getting that win made Leben feel like he won a shot at a legend in Silva. And after a year of waiting, he finally gets his wish.
Good things come to those who remain patient.
“Wanderlei was slated to fight (Akiyama) and he got injured,” Leben said. “And I stepped in and I won that fight. To me, I felt like that kind of earned me the right. It took the UFC a little bit to get around to it, but here we are. I mean, July 2, my dream comes true.”
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Erik Fontanez is a staff writer for MMAWeekly.com.
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