MMATraining.com sat down with Chris “The Crippler” Leben for an interview prior to his upcoming main event against Michael Bisping on October 18th. Known for his appearance on The Ultimate Fighter and sporting an 18-4 professional MMA record, Leben is affable out of the ring a force to be reckoned with at 185.
Thanks very much for your time Chris, can you tell us how your preparation is going for this fight and who are you training with to prepare?
I’m really excited; this is a big fight for me. Training’s going great – I’m at a good weight and I’m feeling really good about where my body and my head are at. As far as preparation, I’m working with a great team at Icon up in Hawaii and I’m also working with Matt Hume who has really brought me up to another level. I know how important this fight is for my career and I want to prove that my game is at an elite level at 185.
What types of problems does Michael Bisping pose and what do you think are his strengths?
Well, Michael Bisping is a tough kid. He’s looked good at 185 and he’s a striker which should make it an exciting match. He’s got good footwork, really good footwork actually, and he has good movement. From what I’ve seen of him at middleweight he’s got real fast hands, his hands are probably faster than mine – so I’m going to get hit a few times for sure. I’m ready to bang.
I don’t really think he has the power to finish me though, I don’t think he has any huge knockout power. I’ve got the guns to put him out with one or two shots and I don’t think he’ll have the power to put me away. I get hit in all my fights and this one won’t be any different, but I can put him away at any time and he’ll have to work at the whole fight to put me down.
How has your training and preparation changed from training at Team Quest to training in Hawaii?
The main thing that has changed by living in Hawaii is diet. I eat a lot of sushi and fresh fish because that is the most available thing here. It’s an island, so everything else has to be brought in. Now that I eat properly I can really see and feel the difference. It’s harder to eat like crap out here and everything is so fresh and lean.
It’s kind of like year round summer here too. There’s always stuff to do and ways to keep in shape other than training. Which is really great and it keeps me in fighting shape pretty much constantly. Teaching every day helps a ton with keeping me in really good shape and in practice too. It’s a never-ending story. I train grappling every single day, just like I train standup everyday – I train to fight everyday. I was wrestling before I was striking, and I continue to work on that everyday.
I feel that I’m fighting at a top level now… there’s a huge difference and moving out here has helped a lot.
Being in the Main Event of such a big card against the hometown boy do you feel more pressure or just overall more excitement?
Yah, being in the main event is super cool – especially over there – but I don’t feel any more pressure than any other fight. He’s the hometown hero, so the pressure is on him to beat me. I think it’s going to be a great fight for the crowd, an exciting fight and I’m super excited. Obviously no one over there will be cheering for me, but I’m okay with that. But being the main event in a new nation and on Spike TV is great. I’m pumped for sure. I know a lot of people have been waiting for this match-up.
Since you’ve been also coaching MMA for a number of years, can you give some advice to a young athlete who wants to get started into Martial Arts? Do you have theories on which arts should be learned first?
If I’m teaching someone that has no training at all, no background, and wanted to get directly into MMA I’d work on getting a wrestling base and some simple striking. Wrestling is obviously real important because you have to be able to keep the fight where you want it. If you don’t have some wrestling you’re not going to go very far before someone dumps you on your head and keeps you there. So I feel that wrestling should come first but with striking as well, then you can start to add tools to their game and mix it up. But, if they can learn to throw a proper punch and learn some control and ground positioning then that’s a real good start. That’s the basics. I actually teach an MMA 101 course at Icon that focuses on positioning and control that comes with wrestling. You’ve gotta build on the basics.
Can we get a prediction for this fight?
I see this fight ending with another knockout. I don’t know when I’ll get it, it would be nice to end it early – but I’m ready to go all three if I have to – he’s a tough, tough kid and it’s going to be hard work. But, at the end of the day, that’s what the fans want to see, everyone likes a finish and that’s what I’m shootin’ for – lights out in London. That’s the idea.
Name your top 3 pound for pound fighters in order.
Anderson Silva, Randy Couture, BJ Penn.
If you could fight one celebrity who would it be?
I don’t know man… let me get back to you on that one.
Any weight class, any era, who’s one guy you’d like to fight?
Obviously I want another shot at Silva. I think I’m still evolving and that’s a fight that I want down the road after I have a few more fights with some tough contenders. But if we’re talking vintage… Gracie or Shamrock or any of the guys that started this sport, guys I grew up watching. I’d love to fight Royce Gracie back in 95 when he was bad-ass and submitting everybody. I’d love to test myself against him at his best. That would be cool.
Name one sport you are just terrible at.
I don’t know.. uh… golf? I don’t know if that counts, but I’m not a golfer at all.
Any final thoughts or anyone you’d like to thank?
Thanks to all the people that give me support through the thick and the thin. There’s a lot of people that like to jump on your bandwagon when you’re doing well and then turn on you as soon as you lose a fight. I have no time for them and I’m not sure that they totally understand that MMA is a sport and not just their entertainment. Win or lose every fighter makes huge sacrifices to step in the cage and fight and I think some people still have to learn to respect that fact. Anyway… for everyone that sends their love, win or lose – thank you. I appreciate the support and I try to put on a good show for you guys. I promise to bring it all to the cage on October 18th so make sure you’re watching – it’s free on Spike so tune in. Thanks.