Chris Leben is the posterchild for the up and down career path of an athlete. He’s the type of fighter who will get in wars for the fun of it, put the pedal to the metal for the fans and win or lose, give the battle inside the cage his best effort. From drunk jerk on the original Ultimate Fighter, to perennial middleweight gatekeeper, to somehow a fan favorite and sage advice giver, Leben has evolved into a brand new entity. One year removed from his loss to Mark Munoz and subsequent suspension from the sport, Chris Leben returned at UFC 155 to take on ex-Strikeforce fighter Derek Brunson. The fight wasn’t great. Both men gassed early and Leben was smothered by Brunson’s non-stop takedown attempts. Even though Leben was hindered by ring rust the collected fans still rallied behind the crimson-haired brawler, and never once thought of turning their backs on him.
At the Las Vegas Fight Shop post-155, our correspondent Michael Mardones was able to get a thoughtful interview with Leben, one that brought the entire Fight Shop to silence and once completed, the patiently waiting crowd gave Leben a standing ovation. Leben used to be the type of guy that people referred to as a ‘love him or hate him’ sort of fighter, now it’s hard to not love him.