LAS VEGAS - JULY 03: (R-L) Chris Leben kicks Yoshihiro Akiyama of Japan during the UFC middleweight bout at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on July 3 2010 in Las Vegas Nevada. (Photo by Jon Kopaloff/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)
Chris Leben, one of the original members of the wildly popular The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) reality show, which has produced some of today's top mixed martial arts (MMA) stars, has had his up and downs during his tenure with the promotion.
With 19 fights under his belt in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), Leben has stepped into the Octagon against some of the best fighters in the world, including Anderson Silva, Michael Bisping, Wanderlei Silva, Yoshihiro Akiyama and Mark Munoz, among others.
However, his greatest opponent, it seems, has not been inside the eight-walled cage, but rather outside of it with his addiction to alcohol and painkillers, a battle that has significantly impacted his personal life, as well as his seven-year fight career with the world's largest MMA promotion.
Leben is currently serving a one-year suspension following his positive test for painkillers following his loss to Munoz at UFC 138 from Birmingham, England. The suspension, however, is not the first time he has been punished for testing positive for a banned substance. In 2008, Leben tested positive for Stanozolol -- an illegal steroid -- after his bout against Michael Bisping at UFC 89, which was also held in England.
In a very candid and heartfelt interview on The MMA Hour today (March 12, 2012), Leben talked, for the first time, about the obstacles that have surrounded him since his second suspension from the UFC, his addiction with painkillers and the steps he has taken to turn his life around.
See for yourself after the jump:
"Well I mean the truth is, I've battled drugs and alcohol, and I've battled with those for my entire life. 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."
"The Crippler" also revealed that he took painkillers the day before weigh-ins because he "cracked" at some of the issues with which he was dealing before his fight against the "Filipino Wrecking Machine," which was the first five round non-title fight in the UFC's history.
"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. 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."
Being very honest and upfront, Leben also revealed that, though he has not taken a painkiller, he did slip by taking a few drinks soon after getting out of rehab:
"It's very hard for me to do this interview and tell you, but for my life, for my rehab, I have to admit that I did slip and had more than one drink after rehab. Yeah, it was a mistake and I know that, but I have continued to progress."
It is important to note that, since there is no regulatory commission in London that administers drug tests for MMA events, the UFC tested Leben and handed down the suspension, too.
Though "The Crippler" would like nothing more than to resume his fighting career with the UFC, he says, the most important thing right now is to get his life in order first:
"I'm not getting sober just to get back in the UFC, I'm getting sober for my life."
With eight months left on his current suspension, Leben has a long road of recovery time ahead of him. He assured fans that he is taking all the steps necessary, thanks in large part to the UFC, and is slowly, but steadily, getting his life back on track.
Sooner the better.