EXCLUSIVE: Leben Looking to Retire in Three Years – But Needs to Win on Saturday First

Photo: SI.com
Photo: SI.com

Chris Leben is looking to enter his ninth year in the UFC, but the Ultimate Fighter 1 veteran is already planning his exit from the sport – a plan which he acknowledges will likely only play out if he beats Uriah Hall at UFC 168 tomorrow.

Speaking exclusively to PlaceToBeNation.com, Leben said: “My goal is three more years. My wife is in law school right now, and when she graduates law school, I think it will be time for me to move on and focus on some other parts of the sport. I love coaching…I want to put my heart and soul into the next three years, giving as much as I can and then bow out gracefully. I’m really not trying to be a Dan Henderson or a Randy Couture.”

For Leben to have those three more years however, he acknowledges he needs to beat the underperforming Hall on Saturday: “I personally feel like I have to win. I’ve never wanted to win so bad…I want to win more than ever.”

“I believe that’s why Dana has matched us up. ‘Uriah Hall doesn’t want to fight, I’m going to put him in there with someone who will make him fight.’ He knows what I’m going to do, there’s plenty of tape to watch on me. The goal is to get in his face and press the action without overextending myself.”

While others may suggest that he will stay around in the UFC because he is an exciting fighter, that’s not the slot Leben is looking to fill in the UFC: “That’s not the kinda guy I am. I’m the kinda guy who wants to go out and win f*cking fights. I want to put on a good show for the crowd, sure – but I’m going out there to beat this guy come Saturday…I’m fighting like me life is on the line.”

For this fight, Leben has moved his camp to Alliance MMA in San Diego. A marked change from organising his own camps in Hawaii, Leben truly believes that he has sharpened all elements of his game working with the likes of Phil Davis and Michael Chandler. “The awesome thing about Alliance is we really are a team,” Leben said, “and everyone who’s in there every day has been helping me out…Dominick Cruz always takes time out of his day to help me…Michael Chandler has been coaching me a lot on my takedowns and wrestling.”

“That’s the thing about Alliance – it’s shark week every week. Not only do I have great training partners, but just the best coaching in the world…I’m in the best shape of my life.”

Chris Leben fights Uriah Hall on the prelims of UFC 168 tomorrow night.