Crippled no more: Chris Leben interview exclusive with MMAmania.com (Pt. 2)

Esther Lin/MMA Fighting

Star-crossed Chris Leben has had his ups-and-downs throughout his MMA career, but now the "Crippler" is looking to make (another) fresh start when he returns from suspension at UFC 155 later this year. See what he's been up to while on the sidelines.

After more than one year, Chris Leben will finally make his Octagon return later this year (Dec. 29, 2012) when he fights on the UFC 155 card in Las Vegas, Nevada.

"The Crippler" has been through the ringer this past year, dealing with an addiction to pain medication that forced a full year suspension following his third round technical knockout defeat at the hands of Mark Munoz last November.

Instead of firing him, Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) sent him to rehab and helped him get clean.

Leben feels reborn with his addiction a thing of the past, but his problems didn't end just because he stopped popping pills. He's had to deal with a wide assortment of new issues especially financial after being out of work for a year.

Leben spoke to MMAmania.com about several of the big changes in his life, both in his training and in his financial situation in part two of this exclusive interview (to read Pt. 1 of this interview click here).

Check it out:

Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You've dabbled a bit with refereeing and judging MMA fights. How did that come about?

Chris Leben: Well, I just reffed a fight in Colorado. I haven't had a chance to ref out here in Hawaii yet, but I'm looking to do that soon. I have reffed other fights in Seattle at a couple Matt Hume shows. I've been corning fighters since the early days of Team Quest so definitely as I get older and when I hang my hat from fighting, judging and reffing is going to be something I'm interested in purely to protect the sport and the safety of the fighters. When I go and corner so many fights and possibly don't see the best judging or the best refereeing, it's hard when it's your fighter in there. I would like to get into that and give it my best.

Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Does seeing the fight from those angles give you a different perspective on fighting too, like an outsider's perspective?

Chris Leben: I think so. It definitely makes it harder to go back and just watch fights. For me, when I watch a fight now it's harder to just watch it as a fan. I'm always kind of critiquing or scoring the fight or keeping a tally in my head now.

Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You mentioned on Twitter that you got a birthday present from your father for the first time in your life this past year. How did that come about? Is that a relationship you reconnected after all the trials and tribulations you've been through this past year?

Chris Leben: Actually, I met my father for the first time when I was trying out for The Ultimate Fighter believe it or. That was back when I was 23. He's been keeping in touch with my brother and my mom a little bit and my brother called me, asked me for my address because dad wanted to send me a birthday present. Definitely I would say the last couple years I've talked to him a few more times, like three or four times a year.

Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You've had a crazy upbringing and Chael Sonnen was talking about it when he was on the Joe Rogan Experience. He mentioned that he'd actually bought some of your stories so he could tell them to other people. Did he really do that?

Chris Leben: He actually did. He paid me for 'em. He did buy them. I let him have those stories and it's pretty funny. I heard through the grapevine that he was telling that story and I had still been denying that they were my stories until the cat got out of the bag.

That story he told about the rancid meat was a true story. I never did see the Rogan show so I don't know how he told it but basically, me and my brother were grounded so we were stuck at home cleaning. My uncle and my mom came home from the bar late at night and they decided to now butcher this two week old deer that they'd hit with their car that was molding. It involved a skillsaw, a meat processor and long-story short, I no longer will eat venison. (laughs)

Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): We haven't talked about your upcoming opponent Karlos Vemola yet. He's a big, powerful guy. His debut in the UFC was at heavyweight. Are you at all concerned that his size will be a factor for your upcoming fight?

Chris Leben: Not at all. I think the bottom line is he's gonna have to make 185 and as far as 185 goes, you can't get much bigger than me. I come in as a pretty big 185-er. He's obviously had to lose some muscle and come down substantially to get down to 185 so I don't foresee that as being a problem.

Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Are you going to be taking a different approach to the weight cutting process? After the Brian Stann weigh-in you had the issue with the candy and then obviously, the craziness before the Mark Munoz fight affected your performance as well.

Chris Leben: I don't know what it is, man. I learn my lessons hard I guess. Definitely I'm a little bit a creature of excess. Every day is excess and that's always been my mantra. The nice thing about this Chris Leben 2.0 as you were saying is now health is my obsession. I'm already substantially lighter than I normally am. Most people that I run into that knew me from before say, "Hey, you look like you're 2-3 weeks out from a fight right now." That's good. My weight is about 212 and I'm not up at 220 or 230 which is where I get sometimes when I'm 2-3 months out. We're gonna continue to tighten it up from here. My plan is I want to come in and show up to Vegas at no more than 200 pounds.

Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You train a ton, that's pretty much all you've been doing the last several months. You train and you teach. You've mentioned that you're boring now. Is there any concern that you're training too much, perhaps overtraining?

Chris Leben: There is, definitely. I've had to remind myself, "Hey Chris, you've got three months until this fight." I've had this talk numerous times already with my coach with him reminding me, "Hey, you've got plenty of time. You need to slow down a bit." Again, I think that's just my personality of everything in excess and there's somewhat a bit of anxiety and nervous energy that I have going on right now and training is what helps me alleviate some of that. Absolutely but looking at it, if you're gonna be guilty of one or the other, overtraining or undertraining, I think overtraining is the way to go.

Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): In your chat with Ariel Helwani earlier this year, you mentioned that you experienced some financial difficulties following the Mark Munoz fight. Have you taken any life lessons from going through that?

Chris Leben: (laughs) Yeah, I'm flat-out broke right now. Being broke sucks. It's probably one of my biggest things where I just feel terrible. I feel terrible for having put my wife through so much and all because of the poor decisions that I've made. The year's been hard. The year's been a struggle. The only thing I can say is it's already happened. It's water under the bridge. The only thing I can do now is try to make sure it never happens again in the future and prepare for the future now.

Chris would like to thank his team at his fight school, Chris West for helping train him, his strength and conditioning coach and Affliction. Also, if you're ever in Hawaii and want to do some training, he's there every single day (unlike some other gyms with pro fighter's names on the front of the building). You can follow him on twitter @CripplerUFC and on Facebook.com/ChrisLebenCrippler.

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