Chris Leben is open to a return to combat sports if it lands him in a money fight with YouTube sensation Jake Paul.
Leben, a former UFC middleweight contender, officially retired from fighting earlier this month after a vicious knockout win over Quentin Henry at BKFC’s KnuckleMania (see it HERE). A few days after the fight Leben took to social media to express his interest in fighting “dwarfs and dweebs,” insinuating a potential clash with Paul.
Earlier this week, Leben confirmed that he is in fact a retired fighter. The 40-year-old veteran will be looking to write a new chapter in his career and help up-and-coming fighters get the training they need to advance to the bigger promotions.
“Listen, I’ve been fighting my whole life,” Leben told MMA Fighting. “I’ve put in the time. I did the work. It’s time for me to move on. As a martial artist, move onto the next step, which opening my own place, developing my own lineage. Taking these young fighters from zero training all the way up to UFC, Bellator, BKFC, level competitors.
“I had a great coach in my past, Robert Follis, he was such a mentor to me. He saved my life. I think a ton of other professional fighters would say the same thing. I want to be what he was for me to other people. So that’s my goal.”
All of that said, Leben is not turning the page on the idea of meeting Paul in a highly-lucrative boxing match. Despite having no combat sports experience Paul has quickly become one of the hottest tickets in boxing, especially after his sensational knockout finish over former NBA star Nate Robinson last November (watch it HERE). He carries a massive following from his YouTube efforts and any opponent he faces inside of the boxing ring is subject to a massive payday.
I guess that’s why Ben Askren is stepping up to the plate this April.
“Unless I’m fighting Jake Paul or something crazy like that, that’s it. I’m done,” Leben said. “I really don’t have a desire, I don’t have anything to prove. If I did, it’s because somebody wants to pay me a zillion dollars.”
While Leben seems like the type of veteran to scoff at the idea of someone like Paul stepping in and stealing the spotlight from more seasoned vets, “Crippler” is just happy to see combat sports getting the attention it deserves.
“Honestly, a lot of people want to act like they’re true martial artists and they’re pure to the sport and it’s a disgrace. That’s all bullsh*t,” Leben said. “Listen, they’re bringing a lot of eyes to combat sports. They’re bringing a lot of attention and a lot of focus and that’s good for us. Right now, BKFC is the fastest-growing sport in the world. Combat sports are now in everybody’s home. These combat sports athletes are household names. 10 years ago, that wasn’t the case. People are getting greedy. Don’t act like that.
“Let’s take it. It makes sense. It makes money. It draws attention. It’s like Conor [McGregor] fighting [Floyd] Mayweather, look that’s a great fight. It was great for MMA. It was great for boxing. Because you had the MMA fans watching the MMA guy, you had MMA guys ordering a boxing pay-per-view. Now all of a sudden you’ve got crossover fans, more embedded in combat sports as a whole. I think there’s no bad about it.”
Leben may be on board with Paul’s boxing crossover and the eyes it brings to combat sports as whole, but the former UFC fighter is not happy with Paul’s recent victory over Robinson. In Leben’s eyes, that bout should have never been booked in the first place.
“What I do think is beating up some point guard, some washed up retired point guard that’s never trained in his life, going out there and knocking him out, I kind of want to back hand the matchmaker of that one,” said Leben. “But if we’re putting together real fights that work to some extent, then for sure. People want to pay. People want to watch [Mike] Tyson-Roy Jones, gotta give the people want they want.
“Absolutely [I’d fight Jake Paul]. You want to put an extra zero on my paycheck to fight that guy? I just fought Quentin Henry. Yeah, absolutely could fight that guy.”
What say you, Maniacs? Would you want to see Leben punch a hole in Paul’s face?
Let us know!