Bellator MMA President Scott Coker revealed last month that former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) star Chris Leben had signed an exclusive deal to come out of retirement and resume his mixed martial arts (MMA) career with the promotion.
However, earlier this afternoon, Swedish website MMANytt.se reported that Leben recently underwent a physical, which revealed a serious medical problem: A damaged heart that can only pump blood at 18 percent capacity. To put that into perspective, Leben is at risk of suffering a heart attack after a light jog, ruling him out of a potential three-round MMA fight.
Company president Scott Coker -- who announced the signing of "The Crippler" on "Inside MMA" -- was initially thrilled to add the Middleweight slugger to the roster. His take just one month ago:
"If I were to draw up the prototypical Bellator MMA competitor, there would be parts of Chris [Leben] in there. The guy has never had a boring fight and as I've said from day one, we're going to continue to grow from the ground up and buy from the top down. I know that Chris still has a lot of fight left in him and I'm excited to see him fight. We are hoping to see his Bellator debut this Spring."
Coker's tune changed to one of concern after he learned of Leben's unfortunate physical condition earlier this afternoon, vowing to offer him help if necessary (via Sherdog.com):
"We are saddened to hear of Chris Leben's current health situation and would have loved to see him compete inside the Bellator cage. A fighter's health and safety is of the utmost importance to us as an organization. We wish Chris the best in his future endeavors and we are happy to help provide a platform for him to share his story with people around the world."
Leben has been "future endeavored" before he even had his first Bellator fight. It's a shame, but it really is for the best for both him, his family and Bellator MMA. He offered the following brief statement:
"More to come about my Heart issue. I'm sure I'm going to do 100 interviews the next week talking about it I just want to say how bummed I am not be able to make me come back and Bellator ... the support (has) been overwhelming. Thank you."
To check out the latest Bellator MMA-related news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive news archive right here.