Some would call a second failed drug test and subsequent yearlong suspension the kiss of death for a fighter’s career. However, in the case of middleweight Chris Leben it has had the opposite effect, injecting a new dose of life into the controversial but beloved competitor.
Leben was popped for painkiller use after losing to Mark Munoz this past November and has been sidelined since, riding out his sentence while also taking advantage of the chance he’s been given to clean up his life. “The Crippler” spoke some about the process, as well as his addiction being so severe he was even using in the U.K. during the final build to his main event bout with Munoz.
“Painkillers for me were for pain management, not just physically, but emotionally. It’s hard to explain the mind of an addict. The only thing I can explain, was that at that moment, nothing else mattered to me, even though I was the main event of the biggest show on Earth,” said Leben this week on The MMA Hour. “I knew I was going to get caught, absolutely. My wife had brought them to me for after the fight, and I had tapered off them for the fight, but there were some issues, a lot of stress, and I cracked. It was as simple as that. I couldn’t hold out. I was clean, but then the day before the weigh-ins, I cracked with all the issues going on in my life.”
Now that he’s been forced to re-evaluate the direction of his life Leben has turned the corner, focusing on getting healthy and in shape for his eventual return to the ring.
“Well I mean the truth is, I’ve battled drugs and alcohol, and I’ve battled with those for my entire life,” explained Leben. “I’ve had an issue with being addicted to painkillers for years now. I had some issues with my camp and it was almost a cry for help. I knew I was going to get caught and I just didn’t care at the time. I’m extremely embarrassed, I feel like I let down the UFC, but at the same time I think getting caught is probably the best thing to ever happen to me. The UFC has been unbelievable, they sent me to a rehab facility and they really took care of me.”
Indicative of his new outlook, the 31-year old even admitted to he’d stumbled on his road to recovery and consumed alcohol rather than keep his mistake secret. Leben is now taking medication to avoid further slip-ups.
PHOTO CREDIT – UFC
MMATraining Take: The proof will be in the pudding so to speak. While Leben can say he’s doing great now, and I suspect he likely is, how will he react once the pressures of fighting in the UFC return or the party-atmosphere surrounding MMA as a whole? Also, I’d be interested to know if his wife has done any level of rehab with Leben since she enabled him in England by bringing the pills overseas.