Leben’s violent style endears him to British UFC fans
Before their recent International Series game at Wembley Stadium in London, the Chicago Bears were criticized for their late arrival to the United Kingdom. Chris Leben is not making the same mistake.
While local fans felt a sense of rejection from Lovie Smith and company compared to the engaging and enthusiastic Tampa Bay Buccaneers who took the time to visit communities, the brawler from Oregon is intent on paying homage to British culture, from the pugilistic arts to good old fashioned teapots.
Leben’s unique personality makes him appeal to audiences worldwide. Despite having started his career at the amateur wrestling stronghold that was Team Quest in Portland, the 31-year-old shuns the safer styles of fighting.
He has experienced the occupational hazards of his ‘kill or be killed’ approach this year with a devastating destruction of Wanderlei Silva following a knockout loss at the hands of Brian Stann.
Ahead of his main event fight against Mark Muñoz this weekend, the fan favorite addressed the media in the Midlands – an area which has produced boxers such as Carl Froch and Matthew Macklin, who have boxed in World title fights in the last year alone – and says he would rather retire than compromise.
“There is such a wonderful background in striking and such a history of boxing,” Leben said of the United Kingdom.
“In America we have wrestling in high school and lots and lots of wrestlers, but the British culture has learned to grow and love and appreciate the stand-up art.
“They enjoy seeing knockouts. They don’t want to see two guys rolling around on the ground. They want to see two guys throw bombs and knock each other out. That’s what I do, so I hope that’s why they like me.
“I’ve been watching a lot of fights lately where the champions – and maybe it’s just me – but it seems like they are fighting not to lose.
“I’d quit if that’s what I started doing. I fight to win. I fight to finish my opponent. I don’t fight to not lose and that’s what you’re going to see.
For a fight where, for the first time in company history, a non-title fight could go on for five rounds, it was accepted by both men that it has little chance of living up to that aspect of its billing.
Leben has gone to decision just twice in his last nine fights – one of which came against Michael Bisping in Birmingham just over three years ago – while Muñoz has exhibited a more aggressive style since his split decision loss to Yushin Okami in last August.
As the ‘Filipino Wrecking Machine’ succinctly put it: “He throws bombs. I throw bombs too. So bombs away.” Both men refer to a stoppage finish as though it is a foregone conclusion. In fact, Leben revealed that, rather than his opponent, his initial fear after being asked to fight in the UK again was the standard of cuisine on offer.
“English food is good, just not when you’re training,” he said. “On Sunday I’ll love English food, but right now I can’t eat a lot of it, so it has posed a bit of an issue in terms of eating what I like to eat and what my body is used to.
“Diet is so important. It’s one thing that over the years I have learned – you are what you eat and what you put into your body.
“I’ve got to be really careful and I did a lot of shopping. I just boiled whole wheat pasta in my teapot!”
A traditional English breakfast of eggs, bacon, tomatoes, sausages, mushrooms, fried bread and a cup of tea will taste a lot sweeter if he is successful in emulating the likes of Froch the night before.