EXCLUSIVE | Chris Leben explains why he thinks WBKFF is ‘gonna be a hit’

Phil Baroni, Chris Leben
Image: Christopher Cook/ WBKFF

Everyone loves a good comeback story and perhaps no MMA fighter has a more inspirational one than “The Crippler” Cris Leben.

An original cast member on season one of The Ultimate Fighter, Leben recently came out of retirement to knock out Phil Baroni in the World Bare Knuckle Fighting Federation’s (WBKFF) inaugural event.

“It went well,” Leben told BJPenn.com of the fight in a recent interview.

“[I’m] older and wiser now. Well, definitely the body is older,” he joked.

The body is indeed older. Eight years older to be exact. Chris Leben was enjoying retirement when he got the call to compete in a bare-knuckle boxing match, but felt confident accepting the offer based on his recent lifestyle changes.

“The biggest thing wasn’t what I did in the fight camp,” Leben revealed. “It’s what I didn’t do. Those lifestyle changes that I’ve talked about previously. Everybody kind of knows my story. I’m in such a better place. My life is based around health.”

“The fight camp really went well,” Leben continued. “My biggest issue was in the back of my head I was kind of going ‘what if I do everything perfect for this fight, train perfect and diet perfect. Then I go out and get clipped or something.’ I guess it doesn’t matter how many fights you have you always worry about something like that happening. Something you have no control over.”

Something that Chris Leben currently has control over is his career and where he chooses to fight. And wouldn’t you know it, he is a pretty good bare-knuckle boxer. He expects to the sport to catch on in the combat sports community.

“I think it’s gonna be a hit,” Leben said emphatically. “Think about the average fan and what they love about the UFC. You don’t have to be a martial arts expert to enjoy a fist fight. And that’s what bare-knuckle boxing is. It’s all the good stuff.”

While technical grappling matches have their place in the combat sports realm, the casual fan often just wants blood. That’s exactly what the bare-knuckle boxing organizations give them, and not in a bad way either. Quite the opposite. The vibe these early bare knuckle events are producing is familiar, like the UFC circa 1993.

“That’s what everybody’s been saying,” Leben said when asked if the WBKFF had a familiar vibe compared to the early UFC days. “It’s funny, I was just talking to Mark Coleman, and he said that this reminded him of when he was supposed to fight Dan Severn in New York, and they had to switch the venue. He was just saying the same thing, and that’s from someone who was there.”

What do you think the future holds for Chris Leben after his massive WBKFF win?

This article first appeared on BJPENN.COM on 11/19/2018.