Search icon


18th Jul 2018

UFC veteran accepts bare-knuckle boxing fight two years after serious heart condition forced him into retirement

Extremely worrying

Ben Kiely

Chris Leben

The last time Chris Leben tried to come out of retirement, he was deemed medically unfit to compete.

Chris Leben’s UFC tenure ended very differently from the way it started. After coming through the debut season of The Ultimate Fighter, ‘The Crippler’ won his first five fights inside the Octagon to earn the right to welcome the great Anderson Silva to the United States’ mainland. Eight years later, he bowed out off the back of four consecutive losses.

The last time we saw Leben in a fighting capacity, he was telling his corner, ‘I’m done, man,’ after being pieced up by Uriah Hall for five minutes. He officially retired the following month, but two years later, he plotted his comeback.

Leben signed a multi-fight deal with Bellator MMA in 2016, but would never fight for the promotion. During a pre-fight medical check, the comeback was called off. Doctors discovered a “life-threatening abnormality” to the left ventricle of his heart, which was “oversized”, “misshapen”, and “not pumping properly,” In an interview with Luke Thomas on Sirius XM Rush, he explained his condition in simpler terms.

“Heart failure is actually the condition. Basically, my heart is failing.”

Despite this, he plans on taking another fight in 2018.

The gloves are off

Leben (22-11) confirmed on Wednesday that he is coming out of retirement to fight Phil Baroni. The UFC vets will duke it out on October 20 in a bare-knuckle boxing match under the World Bare Knuckle Fighting Federation banner.

He told Steven Marocco of MMA Junkie that he has managed to get his heart back to normal function through dietary and lifestyle changes. He claimed his cardiologist cleared him to fight one year ago. However, he wanted to take 12 months before coming back to see how his body adjusted.

“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. Things like raw cayenne pepper, raw garlic powder, turmeric, wheatgrass – I take about 20 different powders a day, a couple times a day.”

Baroni (16-18) is five years Leben’s senior at 42. He made his MMA comeback in 2018 after a four-year layoff. He scored a first-round knockout victory over Matt Lagler at King of the Cage in May. The 10-fight UFC veteran has fought for Pride FC, Elite XC, Strikeforce, DREAM, Bellator and ONE Championship.