'Bad guy' fights back

JOSE RODRIGUEZ

, Last Updated: 8:37 AM ET

Any time a contestant on The Ultimate Fighter trades in his energy drink for a wine bottle, Chris "The Crippler" Leben gets a call.

The original drunken idiot from Season 1 of the show says his friends are always quick to say, "the guy reminds me of you for some reason."

"I always say fighters are like strippers, they ain't paying their way through college," says Leben, 28, who takes on Michael "The Count" Bisping at UFC 89 next weekend.

"What I mean by that, is that you know we all have a bunch of skeletons in our closet. We're fighters."

In this week's episode of Season 8 of the popular reality show, Junie Browning drank himself stupid, then proceeded to throw the mansion's furniture into the pool and pick fights with some of the other fighters living in the house.

The scene was reminiscent of Leben's drunken implosion seven seasons earlier.

But Leben, whose drinking cost him jail time and the cancellation of his last fight, says he's a different man.

Originally scheduled to take on Bisping in June, Leben was forced to withdraw after being arrested in Oregon for failing to comply with the conditions of his DUI conviction.

"I was supposed to take care of some courses and obey the terms of my probation," says Leben, who has a record of 18-4.

"One of the terms was to not leave the state and I moved to Hawaii."

Leben did his two weeks in jail and says the experience made him realize he was squandering an opportunity few fighters get.

'HUGE BUMMER'

"It was a huge bummer. It was a major letdown. But it lit a fire underneath me," remembers Leben, who says he no longer drinks. "It became a great motivator."

Leben got his second opportunity to take on England's most popular scrapper in Bisping's backyard and he says it's not a chance he plans on wasting.

"I was a little worried going through Customs, but I'm in the country now," says Leben about his arrival in England. UFC 89 will take place at the National Indoor Arena in Birmingham Oct. 18 and will feature Keith "Dean of Mean" Jardine taking on Brandon Vera, as well as Thiago Alves fighting Diego Sanchez. It will be available free on Spike TV. The bookies have Leben as the underdog -- something he refuses to believe.

"Obviously, he's going to have a few more fans than me in the building, but on paper I don't see myself as the underdog," he says.

But playing the villain, that's not up for debate.

"I love being the bad guy," says Leben.

"When you can make thousands of people scream, that's cool, but on the 18th, when I make them go stone quiet, that's going to be something really special."


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