If you’d like to learn more about the Chris Leben journey, take a look at his story: https://www.thearenagym.com/chrislebenstory.

Shortly following Chris Leben’s loss to Uriah Hall at UFC 168 on Saturday night, Leben took to Twitter to say, “Way to go Uriah Hall. Next generation of this sport:real athletes. Days of winning on toughness alone are over. Good job buddy.”

Leben was rocked by Hall towards the end of the first round, stumbled to his corner after the horn, sat on his stool and simply said, “I’m done.” The loss gave Leben his fourth consecutive defeat and dropped his UFC record to 12-10. It’s unfortunate for Leben to lose in such a fashion, because for the first time in a while it appeared everything was going in the right direction for him in and out of the Octagon. Leben has battled personal demons throughout his career, due in large part to addiction problems, but in interviews leading up to Saturday’s fight he talked more like somebody interested in having a structured life and less like the “Crippler” we’ve all gotten to know over the last nine years. It’s a sign of maturity, but also representative of a self-realization pertaining to where Leben sees himself in the grand scheme of things.

Leben’s reference to Hall as one of the athletes that make up the “next generation of this sport” is a good example of the type of fighter that can and cannot be successful in MMA going forward. Leben is one of the few remaining fighters on the UFC roster (as of this writing) that steps into the Octagon with the old-school brawler mentality, the same type of style past greats such as Chuck Liddell, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and Forrest Griffin utilized during their successful careers. The fight style was also their downfall, as the up-and-coming fighters were more technically sound and athletic than the veterans. The other veterans who are currently facing the same tough road Leben is on now include Dan Henderson (three straight losses), Clay Guida (lost three of four) and Wanderlei Silva (5-7 UFC record).

MMA has progressed in ways we’ve never seen in sports before. It’s sad to see the brawlers exit the game, but the evolution of the sport is also what has spurred interest towards the mainstream. A decade ago, fans would cringe and yawn if a fight went to the ground. Now, most can appreciate what’s going on, and there are popular grappling tournaments popping up all over the country. Those have existed for quite some time, of course, but it wasn’t until the popularity of the UFC that these tournaments attracted the interest of the amount of people that they do today. If the Lebens of the fight game maintained their success by simply throwing punches and being tough, the sport wouldn’t be where it is today.

It took fighters like Jose Aldo, Georges St-Pierre, Anderson Silva, Jon Jones and Cain Velasquez to come along and change the landscape of MMA. Not only can these athletes knock out their opponent, but they can also get them on the ground and have a fluid approach to the game instead of just getting involved in a slugfest each time out. Guys like Leben tried to adapt, but ultimately the “real athletes,” as Leben put it, became too much to handle and the changing of the guard took place.

The wins and losses never tell the entire story of a fighter. If this was in fact Leben’s last fight, he should leave the Octagon with his head held high knowing he was responsible for attracting a tremendous amount of fans to the sport. His exciting style of fighting and spontaneous personality made him a fan-favorite. While he wasn’t able to make that one last run to the top that he envisioned, he at least appears to have straightened things out in his personal life. Ultimately, that is what’s most important.

About The Author

Joe Chacon
Staff Writer

Joe Chacon is a Southern California writer that has also spent time as a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report, as well as a Staff Writer for Operation Sports. Joe has a passion for the sport of MMA, as well as most other sports.