Chris “The Crippler” Leben Talks his Big Comeback and Recovery

Chris Leben
Credit: Dave Mandel/

Chris Leben is back in the combat sports fold once again, as he faces fellow UFC vet Phil Baroni in a bare-knuckle boxing match later this year.

Chris Leben, who just turned 38 years old on July 21, has battled addiction and health issues for the better part of his career. A “Crippler” comeback seemed unlikely, despite a burning desire to still compete.

Leben’s fortunes would change, however, when the TUF 1 veteran began talks with the World Bare Knuckle Fighting Federation regarding a potential comeback.

Cageside Press caught up with “The Crippler” just days after signing his contract to compete in the WBKFF. In typical Leben fashion, he would hold no punches when talking about Baroni, recovery, and the will to fight.

“I’m back baby,” Leben emphatically announced to Cageside Press just days after signing his Bare Knuckle fight contract to compete against Baroni.

“Physically I’ve never felt better and now that I have been taking care of my body, it’s opened up a whole new world of possibilities for me,” Leben explained.

The 38-year-old Leben has battled substance abuse issues for the majority of his combat sports career. His difficulties both personally and professionally have been well documented in that regard. By Chris Leben’s account, that is all in the past, providing he stays active in recovery, something that is paramount in his sobriety.

“Clean and sober for three years now,” Leben said. “Don’t get me wrong, its hard work. I put a lot into my recovery because I know without my sobriety, I have nothing at all.”

A “Crippler” comeback seemed unlikely given Leben’s post-fight career success in refereeing and coaching, but his return to the cage has been in developing for some time.

“My comeback was actually in the works for a while,” Leben explained. “I haven’t stopped training. I train every day, and I have more to fight for now than I ever have before.”

Leben is referring to his wife and beautiful baby girl who he credits for his newfound love of life. “It’s amazing,” Leben said when asked about his quality of life nowadays.

“I feel better now than I ever have in my life. It’s all just so insane, just a couple years ago I didn’t even know if I would be alive and now here I am training for my big comeback.”

“The Crippler’s” big comeback will culminate later this year when he meets “The New York Bad-Ass” Phil Baroni in a bare-knuckle boxing match, a fight that will take place at 205 pounds.

“Wait a second,” Leben joked. “You’re telling me that this guy is going to stand right in front of me and I get to punch him in the head with my bare hands! This kind of fight was tailor-made for me.”

Indeed it is Chris Leben. Indeed it is.