Yesterday evening, we learned that former UFC middleweight star Chris Leben will return to action this fall when he battles fellow UFC veteran Phil Baroni in a bareknuckle boxing bout. The fight will be promoted by the upstart World Bare Knuckle Fighting Federation (WBKFF) in Casper, Wyoming.
This is not Leben’s first attempt at a comeback. Several years ago, the UFC vet was expected to start competing under the Bellator banner. Unfortunately for him, these plans were derailed when it was learned that he had a severe heart condition.
“Doctors estimate that the blood flow through is heart is only 18 percent of what is considered normal,” Leben’s management said in a statement to MMAJunkie shortly after his Bellator plans were derailed.
“As of now, the prognosis is mixed: one doctor believes that he should be considered for a heart transplant, while another doctor hopes that medication and a healthy lifestyle will reverse some of the damage over time.”
So how, pray tell, is Leben healthy enough to compete in a bareknuckle boxing fight? Well, it sounds like that second doctor was right.
“For the last three years, I’ve been sober, and I’ve also been on an organic supplement regimen that my boss at [Arena MMA] put me on,” Leben told MMAJunkie. “Things like raw cayenne pepper, raw garlic powder, turmeric, wheatgrass – I take about 20 different powders a day, a couple times a day.”
“My cardiologist is in disbelief,” he added. “They didn’t expect me to ever recover, much less to the level I’m at now, where I’m just like another healthy adult again.”
“I feel better than I ever have. I was probably running on four cylinders my last few UFC fights, and now I’m going to be able to go out there and put 100 percent out. Not to mention, my head is about 1,000 percent clearer. I feel dangerous.”
The good news is that, while Leben seems to feel like he’s in good shape, WBKFF seems determined to make sure he’s actually healthy enough to compete before he steps into the ring…
“If Chris and his medical team and our medical team can come to the conclusion that this is OK, then no problem,” WBKFF director of operations and events — a man who only identified himself ‘J.C.’ — told MMAJunkie. “I don’t think Chris would put himself in harm’s way, or get himself hurt in any way, and I don’t think his medical team would allow that either.”
While this is somewhat reassuring, let’s hope ‘J.C.’ isn’t just going on what Chris Leben tells him, and that the former UFC star is actually thoroughly examined. Leben trains out of Arena MMA in San Diego California.
This article first appeared on BJPenn.com on 7/17/2018.