After eight years and 21 fights, Chris Leben’s time in the Octagon may have an expiration date on it. The 33-year-old southpaw slugger will walk into UFC 168 with a three-fight losing streak. Few fighters avoid the unemployment line on such a tailspin, but as a key member of season one of The Ultimate Fighter, the show that White credits with saving the UFC, Leben gets special dispensation.
Even still, a fourth consecutive defeat might be hard to overlook, even for White, who indirectly admitted that Leben’s longevity was facing a stern challenge.
"Leben’s one of those guys, guys like Anderson Silva and Josh Barnett, you don’t see guys like this who stay at that level as they continue to get older and older," White said after the pre-fight press conference. "Chris Leben might be at that point where he’s winding up his career."
Chris Leben might be at that point where he’s winding up his career.
At 33 years old, Leben is actually three years younger than Barnett and five years younger than Silva. However, there is a belief that his physically punishing fight style has taken its toll on his body. During his UFC tenure, he’s been knocked out three times and has engaged in several wars, including a memorable one with Yoshihiro Akiyama in 2010.
On the other hand, Leben’s last two losses were both in fights where he out-landed his opponent but lost largely on the judges’ scorecards, signifying that he’s still competitive.
But being competitive isn’t always enough. Leben will have to prove that he can still win in the UFC, starting on Saturday against Uriah Hall, another TUF alumni in desperate need of adding a victory to his ledger.
"Chris Leben’s had a great run one way or another," White said. "He’s a guy I will always respect and will be there for in some way, shape or form."