Leben: I’m at the top of my game right now
Jack Brown recently had the chance to have a few words with veteran UFC middleweight, Chris Leben, in advance of his next fight. Leben will be taking on tough newcomer Andrew Craig (8-1 overall, 2-1 UFC), in Las Vegas, at UFC 162, on July 6th. The matchup will be the main event of the free preliminary card, broadcast on FX (starting at 8PM EST/5PM PST). Though Leben is coming off of two losses, he has gone through many changes in the past two years and he is still a very exciting fighter and a fan-favorite. Please enjoy the conversation below.
Jack Brown: Chris, when we last spoke, you had not yet made the move from Hawaii to San Diego. How has the move been for you personally and professionally, and how did you eventually select Alliance MMA for your training?
Chris Leben: The move has been fantastic! As much as I love my coaches and training partners in Hawaii, and Hawaii itself, training at Alliance, and being a part of such an awesome team, is amazingly inspiring and motivating. I feel as though it’s pushing me to another level. I picked Alliance because I was planning on moving since my wife had gotten into law school. She had several places to choose from, but when I saw San Diego on the list, and having known Brandon Vera, I decided to fly out, check out the area, and train a day with the guys to see how I fit in. The experience was so awesome that I told my wife she didn’t have a choice and we were moving to San Diego. I scratched checking out other gyms off my list.
JB: Your next fight will be at UFC 162, on July 6th, against Andrew Craig. Craig is coming off of his first professional loss, but this will be his fourth fight in the UFC and he has yet to be stopped. What do you think of this matchup and Craig as an opponent?
CL: I’m very excited for this matchup. Andrew Craig is a tough opponent. He’s very athletic, scrappy, and most definitely hard to put away. I know he’s going to be coming out looking to push the pace. I’m going to have to be in fantastic shape and on my A-game to put him away.
JB: The main event of UFC 162 features the middleweight champion, Anderson Silva, against a much-heralded challenger, Chris Weidman. I’ve seen that you believe that the champ, who you once welcomed to the UFC, will retain the belt. But what type of strategy do you think Weidman might employ, and what would your strategy be if it were you in a rematch against Silva?
CL: Well, the truth is, as much as I hate to admit it, I haven’t seen a ton of Weidman’s fights. From what I know, he’s an excellent competitor. However, I feel that Anderson Silva is too experienced and too good a veteran for Weidman or anybody at 185 right now for that matter. I mean, how many times have we expected somebody to give Anderson a good run, only to watch him shut them down?
Now if I had to fight Anderson again, I would have to put a lot of thought into a game plan and my preparation. Off the top of my head, I would say, from looking at the past, Chael vs. Anderson 1 was really the only time that he has been on the losing end for the majority of the fight. And Chael did a great job of moving forward, keeping pressure, and utilizing takedowns and top control. I think that’s what you have to do to beat Anderson.
JB: In addition to the main event and your fight, there are two other important middleweight matches on this card. How do you see Tim Kennedy vs. Roger Gracie and Tim Boetsch vs. Mark Munoz turning out? You fought Munoz before, but do any of those other three interest you as potential opponents in the future?
CL: Yes. Boetsch, I think, is definitely tough. I know he’s training with Matt Hume, and so he’s going to come in shape and with a fantastic game plan. I’m very excited to see the matchup between him and Munoz. I think my money’s going to have to stay in my pocket for that one though. As for the other fight, I hate to admit it, but again, I don’t know enough about the two of them to make a prediction.
JB: With the recent retirements of Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonnar, we only have four TUF 1 alums still fighting in the UFC. Diego Sanchez is fighting at lightweight these days, Mike Swick is returning to middleweight, and Josh Koscheck has been a mainstay at welterweight. So while a fight between you and Sanchez would seem unlikely, and a rematch with Swick could be a possibility, would you ever entertain the idea of a catchweight rematch with Koscheck? And who of the four of you would you predict will be the last to retire?
CL: Yes, absolutely I would take a catchweight fight with Koscheck. It would stop everybody that has been saying to me every day since the show came out, “When are you going to get a rematch with Koscheck? I hate him! I wish you would beat his ass!” That alone would make it worth it.
As for the last of us to retire, I’m not sure, but truthfully, I hope it’s not me. I feel I’m at the top of my game right now. My technique and body feel better than they ever have. I would like to compete a few more years and see just how far I can go with my new sobriety and dedication to growing as a martial artist. Then, I’m out. I’m not trying to be a Randy Couture or Dan Henderson, fighting when I got grandkids. LOL.
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