Chris Leben may be Zuffa's new company man, but it doesn't sound like he's a sexy enough replacement for Yoshihiro Akiyama at UFC 116: "Lesnar vs. Carwin" on July 3.
"The Crippler" was called up on short notice to replace Wanderlei Silva in the pay-per-view's co-main event when "The Axe Murderer" suffered a broken rib in training. While fans let out a collective groan over the incident, most were able to accept Leben as an adequate replacement considering the time constraints.
Akiyama? Not so much, according to his comments on Korea's Daum.net (translated by Fighter's Only):
"I am not pleased with the change. There are just ten days left until the contest for me to determine [Leben’s] threats and the time is insufficient to establish a tailored gameplan. Leben is also not as high-profile as [Wanderlei] Silva and that does not help me. If there is to be a replacement I was hoping for a big name. I spent one year preparing hard for this fight and this news has come as a big disappointment, my motivation has waned. I do not know yet what will happen ... In the worst case, I will not take part in the [UFC 116] event. We are working hard to resolve this issue."
It's hard to imagine a scenario where "Sexyama" withdraws from the promotion's biggest show of the year, but it doesn't bode well for the Judo master to be heading into his July 3 contest unfocused.
Akiyama hasn't competed since a razor thin split decision over Alan Belcher in his UFC debut nearly one year ago. Now he must overcome a sizable layoff, a change in opponents and a lack of motivation. Can he pull himself together and take his frustrations out on Leben?
We'll know soon enough.