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Lebens off suspension.
Date: 2009/08/03 20:31 By: iluvgossip Status: User  
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Prior to his UFC 89 bout with Michael Bisping, a flood of pre-event features focused on Chris Leben's transformation from the reckless and volatile cast member on "The Ultimate Fighter 1" to a maturing fight veteran who seemed to be reshaping his life.

But after his unanimous-decision loss to Michael Bisping in the main event of the October 2008 event in England, the UFC announced its internal drug testing had nabbed Leben for taking a banned anabolic steroid.

During a recent appearance on MMAjunkie.com Radio (www.mmajunkie.com/radio), Leben, who immediately fessed up and apologized for using the performance-enhancer, said the episode slowed but didn't derail his progress.

"It was tough," said Leben, who now returns from a nine-month suspension. "It still is tough. It's embarrassing, and unfortunately, it affected me socially and financially. … A lot of people weren't too stoked with me."

After a 1-3 stretch from 2006 to 2007, Leben has posted back-to-back victories over Terry Martin and Alessio Sakara to set up the fight with Bisping. The Oregon native had moved to Hawaii, began teaching, quit drinking and stepped up the seriousness of his training.

Also prior to UFC 89, Leben served jail time.

Toward the earlier part of his career, such an event would have signified his latest misstep. This time, though, it represented Leben taking accountability for his past mistakes.

Leben moved to Hawaii in 2007 to serve as an instructor at ICON Fitness, but his request to transfer his probation (stemming from a 2005 DUI arrest) was denied. Leben decided to move anyway since he felt it would provide the "fresh start" he needed, he said. A bench warrant was ultimately issued, and when Leben was added to London's UFC 85 fight card, he knew that getting a visa would require a resolution to the situation.

He turned himself into authorities and hoped he could avoid jail time, but he was issued a 35-day sentence (though he was released early). The bout with Bisping was moved from UFC 85 to UFC 89, and Leben appeared finally on the right track and his past indiscretions accounted for.

Then came the failed test.

"If anything, it's a motivating factor for me," Leben said. "People say you gain more from a loss than you do after a win. And in my case, with everything that went on (at UFC 89) … that's definitely true."

Now, he returns to Portland for the Aug. 29 site of UFC 102, where he meets wrestler Jake Rosholt

"Portland is where I was born and raised," Leben said. "It's my hometown. I'm stoked to be back there and competing."

Leben (18-5 MMA, 8-4 UFC), long known as a dangerous stand-up fighter with a slowly and surely improving ground game, now meets the dangerous Rosholt (5-1 MMA, 0-1 UFC), a two-time NCAA Division I national wrestling champion and four-time All-American at Oklahoma State.

"He's going to be the most highly recognized of the wrestlers I've faced," Leben said. "But as far as fighting goes, he's a great wrestler but just a good fighter right now. "Don't get me wrong, though. He's a tough guy."

Although Leben said he ground game continues to improve, thanks largely to working with a growing number of students at his new gym, the Ultimate Fight School (www.ultimatefightschool.com) in Oahu.

"I've got over a hundred students," Leben said. "I'm training everyday. I've got a team of pros and amateurs. … By teaching, it helps me sharpen my skills."

But, don't expect Leben to play into his opponent's strengths.

"We know where I want the fight, and they know where they want the fight," he said. "No one's playing any games.

"My game plan is the same it's always been: I'm going to punch him in the face and put him to sleep."
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